Summer is making its way fitfully to the Southeast Catskills - two or three warm, sunny days, two or three cool, rainy days - back and forth. Come to think of it, this is exactly the same pattern we’ve experienced this whole past year. The “new normal”, perhaps? We’ll see. This cycle continued all through January and February, gradually working its way into the more spring-like (sort of) temps of March, April and May, but bouncing back and forth every two or three days. Now, we see the same thing. Last week the temps varied from the 50s and 60s for a few days up to the 70s and 80s now. It’s a strange pattern - I’m curious to see if it persists.
Our weather continues to be like a rollercoaster - up and down, back and forth, from (mostly) wet to sometimes dry, making for what seems like an eternal rainforest, with the exception of the several weeks at the end of winter when all the precip became snow. Again, we’re allowed to wonder - is this the new normal? Could be, but the weather-patterns are so screwy now I wouldn’t put money on any of it.
Finally, it looks like the weather will be heating up, more summer-like. It has been so crazily inconsistent, though, nothing would surprise me - not even if we ended up in a drought (let’s hope not).
ALLERGIC TO SPRING?
Our Spring was just cool and wet enough - and with sufficient sunshine - that all of the native flowering trees and shrubs - Apple (not truly native), Black Cherry, Crabapple, Eastern Redbud,FloweringDogwood, MultifloraRose, Shadblow(CanadianServiceberry), etc. - all decided to bloom together, casting massive clouds of pollen in our faces,almost like they forgot to pollinate and had to make up for lost time. It seemed that the White Pines pollinated at the same time, as well. Many, many people were affected by this - more than usual (possibly because it was all at once?) - including yours truly.Our native rhododendron, Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) joined the action, right on schedule, finishing up the wild flowering tree and shrub season, gracing our hills with a “not bad” bloom of its glorious pink or white flowers, still happening as I write this.
Everything green is jumping up, reaching for the sun. The forest canopy has closed in now, cooling the dark woods and ending the growing cycle for the Spring Ephemerals, though the different local lycopodium - Club Moss, Ground Cedar and Tree Wort - thrive in the darkened forest. The main location for most wildflowers now - Asters, Beebalm (Monarda), Cinquefoil, the Red Clover and White Clover, Dame’s Rockets, Goldenrods (not an allergen), Long-stem Buttercups, Ragweed (definitely an allergen), Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Raspberries, Wild Strawberries and others - will be fields and meadows. Mullein is getting taller and taller. The Milkweed is flowering, also right on schedule to welcome home its Monarch symbiotes, fitfully arriving from their wintering locations in the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico (visit www.journeynorth.org). Supposedly, there are many Monarchs on their way, but they do seem slow to arrive here this year. Hopefully, these little beauties will come in force now that we have plenty of Milkweed for them, which are recovering nicely locally.
As mentioned before, it is a good year for our local Heath-plants: the different Blueberries and Huckleberries; the Mountain Laurel and less so for the Wild Azalea, of which I’ve only seen a few. The blueberries have plenty of fruit now and once they ripen the Black Bears will be happy (maybe they’ll stay away from garbage? Right.).
One piece of good news for local trees is that evidently not all White Ash are killed by the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). These are called “lingering Ash” and have some resistance to EAB. Cornell Cooperative Extension and others are working to use scions (twigs) taken from them to breed resistant ash trees and restore the population
The number of animals seems to increase day-by-day. Good to see that the local insect population is not in danger (though I read that it is in many places and I do notice there are not as many bugs on windshields as there used to be), shown by what seems like an ever-burgeoning population, from every type of Damselfly and Dragonfly down to myriad ant-species. Fireflies have returned, sparking life into the increasingly-warm evenings. Insects are the major food-source of most every type of small bird as they busily and happily try to limit the bug population, in turn sharing with us the joyous cacophony of their song (remember, birds have no sense of smell, so you can safely replace an egg or nestling back into the nest). Small rodents like insects as well and they, in turn, feed the predators higher up the food-chain (Foxes, Coyotes, Hawks and Owls). Our intrepid Ruby-throated Hummingbird is an exception to this - though they will occasionally glean a bug or twoprimarily feeding on the nectar of mostly red-colored plants and the occasional human feeder (remember to keep the feeder clean). I wonder - do the Hummingbirds and Monarchs dream of their ancestral northern summer flowers and fields when wintering? Do the older ones regale the young ones with tales of warm, sunlit northern meadows? By the end of the season, do they lookforward to going back south (somebody has to think of these things)? The Great Blue Herons - like many birds at this moment- are focused on their fledglings. Local Bald Eagles are successfully proliferating, their young about to fledge, hangingout on the edges of their huge nests, testing new wings against any stray zephyr, champing at the bit, raring to go - to fly. I’ve been watching two of them since they hatched and am trying not to be a nervous wannabe EagleUncle, knowing that it is a challenging, very dangerous time for them. Makes sense - they live in a challenging, dangerous world. I wish them wind under their wings, food when they need it and luck in continuing their kind.
SOLSTICE AND MIDSUMMER
Today is the longest day of the year (what I call astronomical Midsummer). And what I call True Midsummer, locally the hottest, most humid period is between late July and early August (on average). That is when Life will be at its peak, when the very air is thickly vibrant with it and theearth practically writhes with myriad life-forms.
Thanks, All. Have a great, Safe Summer.
Ranger Dave Holden
Woodstock Trails on Facebook
rangerdaveholden on Instagram