SUMMER SIMMER, part 2
I love to write about what I experience in the outdoors, hoping that I can somehow convey even half of it. I can describe what I SEE (somewhat, I hope) and what I HEAR and sometimes,even what I FEEL, but how does one possibly describe the rich, summertime mix of Catskillsforest-SMELLS, deﬁnitely dominated by the scent of White Pine? There are other odors mixed in, of course, like the pungent smells of decaying leaves and the molds that help break down fallen trees. None of the most modern of our recording devices can record our olfactory experience (I’ll admit - sometimes that’s ok). Another midsummer sensation that is difficult - if not impossible - to truly describe in its fullness (but it won’t keep me from trying!) is what it is like to “wade” through highly-humid air. I always ﬁnd it amazing in this season that not only are we presented with auditory, olfactory and visual sensations surrounding us, but also the sensual sensation (?) of feeling the heaviness of the very air wrapping itself around us. On top of that (literally and ﬁguratively), that same water-laden air is itself full of myriad species of insect-life - all pressing against us. Notice how summer weather slows us down but winter weather makes us move faster (I guess anything that slows us down a bit is a good thing).
FLORA The dark green forest of summer is a great place to ﬁnd coolness and refuge from the season’s heat. Just because it is darker there, though, does not mean at all, that it is lifeless - far from it. Many small creatures try to use this space as a refuge from predators, with some success. While hawks cannot see in the ﬁlled-in woods as far as in an open area they are still a formidable hunter among the trees and underbrush and the various wild dogs are skilled at ﬁnding prey among branch and leaf. Also, if we know what to look for there is still much interesting small plant-life among the over-browsed understory (radically overpopulating White-tail Deer are decimating our forests): Green- and Brown Jack-in-the-Pulpits are seeding now, clusters of bright-green or bright-red berries under little triple-leaf canopies. Stinging Nettles abound as do the increasing amounts of invasive plants like Garlic Mustard and Japanese Stilt grass, which are successfully displacing many native fern species. Please be extra cautious with wild mushrooms. Never, ever ingest any at all unless you are 100% positive it is edible. Some of our fungi that are dead-ringers (pun intended) for edible ones in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe are NOT edible here. More and more of the “ﬂower action” is taking place in ﬁeld and meadow now, where the numerous Asters, Beebalms (Monarda), Bluets, Low-bush Blueberries (native), High-bush Blueberries (non-native), Huckleberry, Long-stem Buttercups, the Golden Rods (not allergens, but they get all the attention), Joe Pye Weed, Milkweed, Mullein, Ragweed (deﬁnitely an allergen, yet more subtle appearing) and Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Pink Roses, Wild Strawberries and Wild Raspberries, as well as various Sedges and wild grasses are all starting their bright, sunny saga.
FAUNA As we approach our local High Tide of Life - Midsummer - every day brings us new, additional, life-forms. With the increase in the dew point (and therefore, the humidity) our Fireﬂy friends have returned, livening our evenings with their glorious, sparkling life. Each different species of the genus Lampyridae occupies a speciﬁc niche in our lower night sky, some ﬂying along low to the ground, some zig-zagging a little higher up and others ﬂying still higher - all of them communicating with their remarkable bioluminescence. It never ceases to amaze me that these little geniuses are able to so effciently make light, like the alchemists that they truly are (sparking light in several different colors, but, alas, not gold), in order to attract a mate. One species (Photinus carolinus) even synchronizes their ﬂashes! While our meadows are home to so many butterﬂies and moths - Black- and TigerSwallowtails, Brushfoots, Captains, Dusky-wings,Frittilaries. Hairstreaks (great name!), Hop Merchants, Metalmarks, Nymphs, Questionmarks (why?), Satyrs, Skippers, Snouts, Spring Azures, Sulphurs, Viceroys (a smaller Monarch lookalike) and Whites - the reigning king and queen of them all - the Monarch - have only ﬁtfully arrived. In contrast to the plethora of ﬁreﬂies, it looks to be another bad year, locally, for this record long-distance butterﬂy migrator. I’ve only seen one, which is disheartening, to say the least. For more on Monarchs, visit www.spiritofbutterﬂies.com, as well aswww.journeynorth.org. Local Milkweed has increased but now they seem almost forlorn as they wait and wait for their symbiotes who are - at the very least - running late. All dressed up in their pretty purple ﬂowers but with no where to go. The largest (and best) Monarch look-a-like is deﬁnitely the Great Northern Fritillary. From a distance it is very similar - until you see it ﬂy. Monarchs ﬂy in gentle swoops, majestically dosey-doe-ing around the landscape, whereas the Fritillary’s ﬂight is jittery by comparison, jumping erratically from spot to spot. Because the insect population continues to burgeon so does the bird population - Barn Swallows scooping up bugs in mid-air, Bald Eagles and Ospreys deftly grabbing Large- and Smallmouth Bass (actually, neither catches a ﬁsh with each try), Ruby Throated Hummingbirds busily nectaring on ﬂower after ﬂower - all to the magical, ﬂute-like tune of the Wood Thrush echoing through the woods All of us - plant or animal - are “making hay while the sun shines” in this glorious time of longer light.
Please do it Safely and have a great Summer.
Thank you, “Ranger” Dave Holden
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Please feel free to contact me about Hikes and Tours on these extraordinarily beautiful Summer evenings - or almost anytime - and Follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updated hike-schedules. Also, please see my new Waghkonk mini-Notes monthly in the Woodstock Times and Saugerties Times (yay!). This month’s article is titled “Meadow Memory” - hope you like it. Thanks again.