I've been able to stay at home and work a lot more with the end of the semester. Walks around the yard, strolls up and down the road, and drives into town have provided a great deal of fun and some interesting observations.
Walking around the yard has yielded at least seven active nests. Just outside the door above the light by the driveway a phoebe has nested again. The carport by the shed has what I believe are two vacant robin nests and a vacant phoebe nest built on the handle of the weed eater left hanging there by the previous owner of the house. This year a robin is raising its young in a new mud and grass nest right above the lawnmower and a dove has raised two young not more than five feet from the robin. Near the creek, a piece of bark has peeled back to make a beautiful horizontal shelf. A robin found it to its liking, and had five eggs in it earlier this week. I put my hand in today and found nestlings, so I will let them be from now on. Moving towards the paved road, at least two pairs of starlings have nested (unfortunately). And I discovered today the bluebird box that fledged young last year has young in it. I assume they are bluebirds, because that is what has been entering and leaving the box. But the nest has feathers in it, like a tree swallow would build. Perhaps there was some competition for the box, and the nest is a composite of leftovers and new materials.
The amphibians have been active, too. I had wood frog tadpoles in the vernal pond on the east side of the property, but the pond dried up last weekend. Spring peepers went silent this week, with bullfrogs and green frogs vocalizing in the evening. As the weather has turned wetter, I heard one toad trilling this evening and some peepers are calling this evening. The pond next door has had pickerel frogs, green frogs, and bullfrogs along it.
Reptiles have been sparse, but that seems to be from my not looking, not them not being about. I believe the garter snake still lives in the wood pile. Shallow depressions have appeared in the gravel near the bridge. I was surprised today to find a fresh hole, not looking to be more than a few hours old. Shifting my gaze up, I found a wood turtle about 10" in length sitting next to the road. I left her to go about her business.
I've started to investigate the fish in the area, through fishing and putting out the minnow trap. While I know there are trout in Canoe Creek, I can't catch them with rod and reel. I did manage to trap some black-nosed dace, two 4" long creek chubs, and a crayfish there. In the pond across the dirt road, bluegill and redbreast sunfish are within my ability to catch, but the bass and crappie I have seen are not.
Each day I find something in the yard or the neighborhood that I can't identify. I'm spending some time with the field guides and song tapes I have, solving new mysteries and refreshing my memories of the flora and fauna found locally.
May 18, 2009
I've been mowing between rainstorms and finally after a week reached the back of the house. Much to my surprise, the leaves-of-three that greeted me were not poison ivy but jack in the pulpit. At least two were flowering. I always enjoy finding such an unusual and beautiful flower. Having it next to my house is a pleasure. With a spathe and a spadix, the flower is shaped like a pitcher with a folded flap of striped petal over the top of a rod-shaped green "jack" sitting in the middle of the pitcher. The shade of the house should provide a good spot for them to grow and spread.
May 3, 2009
I stepped outside to retrieve some things from my car a few minutes ago. Above the rushing water of the stream, I could hear the "whip" note of a whip-poor-will. I cupped my hands behind my ears, changed my position several times, and eventually I could make out the complete call of the first whip-poor-will of the year.
While cleaning up some debris from last year's construction project, I uncovered a nice-sized garter snake. Fortunately, my daughter was here to take a look at it, too. He was very nervous and struck a couple of times. I would be scared too. After retrieving a woolly bear caterpillar to look at, we covered him back up and I'll let him enjoy the debris pile for the summer. He was so lovable.