Springing to summer
BRIGHT TO DARK - By the time you read this our forests will have transformed from the bright green, high-nitrogen-infused, light green of Spring to the deep, dark verdure of Summer. The Lady will have fully donned her rich, verdant Cloak of Life, remaking the woods into a place of cool, dark mystery once again, her secrets not to be revealed until next winter.
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, Flowering Dogwood, Multiflora Rose, Shadblow (Canadian Serviceberry), 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) will soon join the action, finishing up the wild flowering tree and shrub season, gracing our hills with what looks to be a “not bad” bloom of its glorious pink or white flowers.
FANTASTIC FLORA - 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 will soon be flowering, also right on schedule to welcome home its Monarch symbiotes, some arriving early from their wintering locations in the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico (visit www.journeynorth.org). Hopefully, these little beauties will come in force now that we have plenty of Milkweed for them, which are recovering well 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 (email outreach@MonitoringAsh.org).
FAUNAL FANTASIES - The number of animals seems to increase day-by-day. You’ll be seeing new little Bambis gamboling about. If you find one seemingly alone in tall grass, please leave it be. Mom probably will be feeding nearby. It does seem like our local insect population is down, and I do notice there are not as many bugs on windshields as there used to be. Having said that, our insect-population is growing somewhat daily, from 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). Regrettably, it also seems that commensurate with the decrease in insects, that there are less birds so far this season (maybe they just took a wrong turn and are now on the right path?). 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 two - primarily feeding on the nectar of mostly red-colored plants and the occasional human feeder (please change the syrup regularly and 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 look forward 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, hanging out 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 Eagle Uncle, 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 Coming up on June 20 is the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice (astronomical Midsummer). 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 the earth practically writhes with myriad life-forms.
Thanks, All. Have a great, Safe Summer.
“Ranger” Dave Holden
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