I had a special morning, doing some What the Robin Knows type activities in the woods I know well. That means going outside and holding still for awhile, letting the natural world come to you. This time of year is so full of life, maybe, just maybe, the fullest. There was a bird chasing a juvenile male Pileated Woodpecker, which turned out to be a Red Bellied Woodpecker! I guess that he wanted to check out the newer drilling done by a bigger beak. There were many tadpoles and nymphs and there was a huge Green Frog staring at me from a few feet away. It took me so long to actually spot it while I peered into the water. I always wonder when frogs do this to me what else I am not noticing right before my eyes. There were little froglets (but not the littlest; they may have done some growing) hopping up the dry streambed to escape my boots. There was a flycatcher catching flies, and a lot of Chickadees. There was one Cedar Waxwing. I have never seen one by itself, but no others seemed to turn up- was I seeing the same one over and over or catching glimpses of a few? It was all so lovely, and I didn’t take pictures and I didn’t really want to… but I want you to maybe go outside too. Into the Woods!
Three Polyphemus Eggs hatched on June 13th.
My oh my how the time has flown, because just yesterday the first emerged from her cocoon! Here is the tiny caterpillar that almost escaped but that I finally found, after a lot of searching, clinging to my own hair.
So furry! So big! How can those two photos be of the same creature sitting on my hand? Continue reading
I haven’t posted all summer and here I am posting photos from winter… I thought these photos were lost forever… There are many more but I am starting at the beginning.
From Winter to Spring in 2015. If you’d like to watch the seasons progress I think you can also click on a photo and move forward like a slideshow by clicking the forward arrow. Continue reading
E-Vo-Lu-Tion. 64. Category is: Rainy Spring.
Evolution is the name of the game. And we all play, whether to win or lose I am not so sure. We all fall down. We are all being played.
Have you read The Beak of the Finch? I read it freshman year of college (a year so long ago now that I am like all the other old people who talked to me about things that happened to them in college and I wondered what sort of unearthly world that took place in). It was a good book, required for honours Biology 2 (which was the one about zoology and evolution). I liked my professor and my TA. One day in lab we went to catch things in the stream, and the professor came too, and he praised me because I was so enthusiastic. His name was Dr. Kent and he specialized in fossils. Continue reading
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do
I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because
in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.
I recently encountered Wood Frog tadpoles. Last year I thought I had seen them: a clump of loose greenish eggs around a stick in mid-April. But that clump was solitary, it would have fit (dripping) between two hands. This year, an early spring, I saw Wood Frog eggs twice in mid-March. They were so green with algae (to help the eggs absorb oxygen) that they looked like an actual film of algae over the pond surface. They were also in clustered groups, covering easily 10 square feet of the surface of each pond- all together and nowhere else in that body of water. Oddly, shallow areas were chosen both times, and some of the tadpoles were already dead on the surface of their still moist but no longer underwater eggs. Why did the frogs choose a shallow part of the pond instead of a deeper one? A question for another day.
I could not resist scooping up some tadpoles for a better look, and of course I encountered many a mysterious invertebrate larva. How I would love to see what they all turn into. Some were almost certainly going to be mosquitos, so that love might be tempered. But it only occurred to me yesterday when I was writing about insects that I do not think that mosquitos were flying around laying their eggs in February. I do not think the aquatic larvae were hatching and finding lots of yummy food and temperatures conducive to growth in early March. So. All those lovelies must have been overwintering in their larval state! That means, if I am guessing correctly, that every single mosquito in Maryland right now is a little larva in a pond, waiting to mature and suck some mammal blood and lay some more larval eggs to grow up and bite all the summer campers in July to then lay some more eggs to turn into larvae in the fall and hang out over the winter all over again. Am I right? I don’t know, but I never tire of thinking about overwintering. In the insect world, I have said it before and I’ll say it again, with the exception of our glorious migratory Monarchs, every single insect you have ever met is also here in the winter, unseen and unmoving, suspended in one life stage or another. Walk around outside in a blizzard and think of that one day: they are all here, beneath snow and ice and mud and bark, waiting, like us, for spring to come again. Try not to gloat, but you are pretty lucky to be enjoying that long awaited season right now.
Even before March ends…
Well, people have been saying that this spring is so wildly early. Other springs I remember them complaining it was late. Usually those were springs when I spent March and April working outside, practicing being fun AND safe, rain soaking through my rain gear at temperatures that wouldn’t quite dip below freezing. And I sometimes still long for those times.
Somehow this most magical and fleeting spring of 2016, a spring I am happy to experience on this good Earth, has started to seem perfectly normal to me, early or not. Perhaps that is because the momentum has shifted, there is no stopping it now. Everything is only speeding up, I can no longer revel in one small discovery at a time because each thing is followed by another, and each thing is a part of every other. This rhyme applies to everything I can think of: the spring ephemeral wildflowers and the baby leaves being birthed can hardly be separated from the insects that are coming out of them. Indeed, many insects lay their eggs in and around tree buds so that the larvae can be born right along with their food source. And all of those spring ephemerals exist precisely to be pollinated. Some, as a second choice, might self-pollinate before the flower dies, but given their druthers they will take advantage of the genetic mixing offered by the many specialized species of native bees and flies spreading that DNA around. And indeed when I was out today I couldn’t stop watching the insects, wondering what they were, and where they were going. They didn’t want me to watch them. They were good at losing me. And that makes sense too. My other friends, the birds, are avid insect watchers, the better to eat them. And indeed most of the birds that are currently plotting their migration to the North from their warm winter homes left precisely because they require insects to eat. The insects have got to be good at escaping those beautiful predators. And the birds have got to pay attention, and get their return timing right. So this particular moment is really just a wild and uncontrollable escalation, like an nuclear reaction. No stopping it now, but instead of destruction it is a bringer of life.
Of course this would not be an everycreepingthing post if I didn’t mention to you that I am very busy and have not had all the time my heart desires. Today that means that I have not looked up sweet or confirmatory details about the Hop Tree or the Ironwood or the other lovely plants that I would like to share with you now. I meant to, as it has now been a couple years since I took a plant class. Perhaps I will update this post tomorrow. But tomorrow will almost certainly bring so many more exciting new things.
Hop Tree Fruits on my old mystery ID Tree
Toad Shade, a Trillium, growing in the same spot as last year! But 24 days earlier.
An Ironwood Tree covered with what I am calling catkins until I look it up.
Spring Beauty blossoming and getting some love from an early season pollinator of unknown identity. Honey Bees are not great at pollinating many of our native species- in fact many plants have insects that specialize in pollinating only their particular flowers. One Trout Lily leaf growing in the background. To bloom, a Trout Lily is said to require two leaves. Perhaps another one will grow here, or maybe this plant will store energy created by that leaf and grow a second leaf next spring.
I cannot resist a Redbud in bloom. I kept a branch in water in my office last week and it bloomed already. Today I took the dying branch outside in a paper bag which I brought upstairs to my kitchen to re-use for lunch tomorrow. Inside were a hundred little pink presents! I love having a North-South lifestyle that takes me over an hour North on a very regular basis. As the Redbuds near me are finishing, those at a house I dearly love are peaking, and those near the Farmer are just getting started- unless this warm year accelerates even that usual timing
Baby leaves in the Maple Family, I believe Red Maple. Always something Red on this very adaptable friend.