Jun 18, 2009

Summer is Coming

This week has seen cooler temperatures and changes in the bird calls, animal behaviors and blooming flowers. Most notably, no turtles have been seen laying eggs in a week. Walking past the gravel bank reveals no new digs or disturbances that I can see. The page is turning. Many of the birds have nested and the fledglings have moved out into the wide world. Mourning doves that can barely fly, tree swallow fledglings, robins, and chipping sparrow fledglings have been seen repeatedly. We have been without rain for five days, too. Until last night. A good soaker dropped up to an inch and a half of rain on the area. A rather tall white flower has emerged along the roads and is now blooming in the yard. I hope to look it up when I go inside. Tonight, as I sit on the porch writing this, spring peepers are peeping again. Earlier I heard a toad trilling. The vernal pool along the dirt road is full again. I won't be mowing the trail through the wet meadow anytime soon.

I've been teaching 2nd through 4th graders about "Creepy Crawlies" - the overlooked and often feared spiders, insects, crustaceans, worms, slugs, and millipedes. In my quest for course materials, I found two lovely lady dobson flies near my porch light. The rich browns and delicate wings were lovely, but those formidable-looking mouthparts made me pause when I caught them. The cold has kept the ladybug invasion down, but as I sit here, I am seeing the lady bugs rising from the grass and flying about. I hope the next week brings their numbers up and we can get the "Christmas tree effect" we had last year.

Jun 16, 2009

Lightning Bugs Appearing

I noticed the first one two weeks ago, I believe it was June 3rd. Just a little yellow-green light in the unmowed grass near my flower bed. I saw several others that night. Over the past two weeks, their numbers and flights have increased, with most activity occurring after a rain on warm and humid evenings. I was hoping for more activity, but I haven't had the chance to see the trees light up like Christmas trees as they did last year. I'll keep looking.

I read in an article in the Clearfield Progress newspaper that lightning bugs are declining in some areas. In addition to beetle pesticides killing off the larva, keeping grass short can cause them problems. I'm showing my solidarity with the little night lights by not mowing 2/3 of my property. Viva la luciƩrnaga.

Jun 3, 2009

Egg-citing News From the Reptile World!

The wood turtles are laying eggs! Last week, I stumbled up the bank near the creek and spotted a freshly dug nest. I shifted my gaze a few inches higher, and found the excavator herself - a large female with a carapace length of perhaps eight inches. I left her, and thought her gone for good. Until yesterday.

A stroll down the road to the sight of last week's excavation was productive. As a peered over the guard rail to scan the gravel bank, a female wood turtle - perhaps the same one as last week - had her lower body immersed in a hole in the gravel. I left to tell a neighbor who I thought might be interested in seeing this. Upon our return, he spotted a second turtle five yards away from the first. Both had holes started.

That was around eight in the evening on June 2nd. Today, June 3rd, I found the turtles still digging, but at different locations at nine in the morning. The orange legs and torso, the slatey green-brown backs, and the pyramidal concentric rings were clearly evident. I took some pictures and left the ladies to do their thing undisturbed.

Researching these turtles has reminded me of some of the amazing attributes of their physical construction, their behaviors, and their life histories. More on those things later.