Thursday, May 16, 2013
So now, instead of trying to find new summer residents, I can relax, pull up a chair and...No, that’s not going to happen. I have a list of outside work that’s longer than my arm, starting with trimming back the various tree branches and bushes that scrape the sides of the car as I travel my driveway. Just because I don’t have a yard doesn’t mean that there’s no work to be done. It can be a near-constant fight against multi-flower rose, poison and assorted saplings determined to take hold and cover the cabin.
It can be tough work, particularly when it’s hot outside, so now is the time to get at it. Some years it gets hot so early in the season that I don’t really get it done to the point that I’m relatively happy with it. This year so far, it’s been fairly cool, so at least I don’t yet have that to deal with. Still, it’s something of a race to get done, because I know summer’s heat is only a few weeks away.
I use hedge clippers and a longer handled clipper rather than a weed whacker. I used to have a weed whacker. Several, in fact. None of them lasted very long. I couldn’t handle the heavy weed whackers and the lighter weight ones didn’t hold up. I’ve had the clippers for years. I don’t mind that this is a battle I will lose. My only goal is to keep the tendrils of new growth from scraping the car along the driveway or me as I walk around the cabin. The forest will win, eventually. So be it. In fact, I hope the forest does win, eventually. If not now then at some point, even if that time is far into a future I will never see. I have faith in the strength of the forest to survive even mankind’s mindless destruction. Though I also believe that mankind would survive longer than I expect they will if there were more of us who believed in the importance of forests.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Wild geraniums are a small flower. Even with that unusual shade they can easily be overlooked. I first saw this bloom last night as I was walking Baby Dog. I checked the surrounding landmarks and then returned later with my camera. And I still spent a minute or so looking for it.
The near-frost I had in the morning didn’t hurt the plant any. In fact, none of the woodland flowers that are out right now were bothered by the 30 degree drop in temperature. Perhaps it’s only the cultivated flowers that are less able to withstand big drops in temperature.
So far this May has been cooler than most. I don’t mind that in the least as long as whenever the seasonal warm-up finally does arrive it doesn’t appear all at once. I hate those years when I have to turn off the heat in the morning and turn on the air conditioner later that same afternoon. This year my heat is turned off, but the overnight chill was enough to make me, momentarily, re-think that choice. Instead I opted for a sweater and another cover on the bed, where I was eventually joined by every cat in the house. Amazing how quickly they want to sleep with me when the night is a cold one.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
|Along N. Wharf Rd., Monaghan Twp., York County PA|
Walking in winter’s darkness can have its charms, though that can pall before the light returns to the evenings. A little bit of nighttime walking is fine, but I find six months o f it not nearly as interesting or enjoyable. A winter’s walk in daylight is still restricted to weekends for me, and those are busy enough that a daylight walk feels hurried, crunched in between this errand or that one.
In July and August, morning walks are preferable as the day’s heat takes all night to dissipate. An evening walk then can sometimes be hotter than one in the middle of the afternoon. Summer’s heat is hardly conducive to an enjoyable foray. And there are the ever-present evening storms to contend with, too.
But May is one of those months where daylight stretches on for hours and the temperature is pleasant and even a bit cool as dusk approaches. What could be finer? I think it’s the best month for walking. October has its charms and the temperature is usually fine, but the evenings are already growing quite short. No, May is the best month for an evening walk. The day’s work is done, the dinnertime chores are done, and daylight still beckons me outside. It’s enough to make me wish for May to last for months. Hurry! Don’t tarry or you’ll miss the best walking time of the year. We’re already halfway through the month. Don’t waste another day of it.
Monday, May 13, 2013
I frequently see scarlet tanager deeper in the forest. Down in the valley between Roundtop Mtn. and Nell’s Hill they are regular summer residents. I’ve never had one so close to the cabin before, though, so I’m quite enjoying his presence. I haven’t yet seen him with a female so I don’t know if he will end up with a nest nearby or not.
The blue jays that are nesting on the south side of the cabin must have hatched. I no longer see mom’s head or tail constantly poking up out of her stick nest. The babies, if there are any, aren’t yet big enough for their heads to appear above the edge of the nest.
The first wild geraniums have appeared and, as you can see, so have the first mayapple blossoms. Mayapples are difficult to photograph. The flowers are usually hidden under the umbrella-like leaves, which means I have to get down on the ground to get a photo. That’s not so bad, but at least at my cabin, wherever I see mayapple blooms, I also find poison ivy. You can see one of those on the left side of today’s photo. I’ve already had all the poison ivy I need for this year. A few weeks ago before the leaves of anything were out, I pulled up some stray twigs and roots and ended up with poison between my fingers. That was not fun at all. I know enough to wear gloves most of the time, but I wasn’t thinking that those bare roots might be poison. Now I know.
Friday, May 10, 2013
I am impatiently awaiting the arrival of warblers, and I’m starting to think my fear that they will overfly me this year is what is happening . Certainly, I haven’t had anything other than a few yellow-rumped warblers. This morning I stood outside the cabin and listened to the dawn chorus, hoping for the sound of one at least. The chorus was filled with the sweet songs of many wood thrush and ovenbirds, but nothing that sounded warbler-ish to me at all. It feels ungrateful to complain while the wood thrush are filling the woods with their songs.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Unlike fall migration, which is spread out over a longer time, often with males, females and immature birds heading south on different schedules, spring migration is all about finding the best habitat for the best nest site and doing it before anyone else gets there or takes the best spot. Here in the northeast, we’ll have to wait for the low pressure system that’s sitting over top of us to move before the action really takes off. Last night, radar of the DC metro area showed a big concentration of birds, as did central Kansas.
Here at Roundtop, you can see what the sky looked like this morning—foggy, with rain expected off and on all day. It’s the kind of weather where birds like to sit and wait for conditions to improve. In a way, the concentration of birds in DC may prove to be unlucky for me just over a hundred miles or so to the north. Birds can cover 100 miles in several hours of flying; they may not stop here this year. It may be that only the birds who come for the season will land. The birds that we only see during migration may well not be ready to stop for lunch, let alone for the night, at the point when they will be over top of my cabin.
The serious bird radar watchers (or is that serious radar birdwatchers?) suggest that this year fewer birds are to be found anywhere on the trip north. Their radar spikes aren’t as concentrated or as large as is normal. I haven’t yet heard anyone discuss what that means—an ordinary variation in numbers, a sign of trouble in the wintering grounds. So I will try and resist the temptation to speculate and will instead just note it for the future.
Tuesday, May 07, 2013
A couple of things about spring have surprised me this year, though after all the years I’ve been on the planet, I wouldn’t have guessed I’d forget something so obvious so easily. The first is the sound of the breeze through the leaves. The sound is entirely different than the sound of winter’s wind through the trees. My first thought when I heard the breeze was that the wind must be a lot stronger than it looked, to make so much noise. Then I realized that I hadn’t heard that sound for roughly 180 days, so it seemed new to me again. It doesn’t take much wind to make a summer breeze sound noisy compared to winter. All those thousands or millions of leaves rustle loudly on even the lightest breeze.
The second thing isn’t quite so much of a surprise, but a pleasant remembering. It’s nice to get up in the morning and have it not be dead dark outside. Even at 5:30 a.m., when I get up, daylight is now apparent. It’s not sunshine and it’s not yet very bright, but it’s light enough to do without the headlamp and that’s a nice thing. It seems so much more civilized to get up when the day is already producing some light. In midwinter, that 5:30 a.m. alarm seems as though it’s going off in the middle of the night.
My photo today is the first jack-in-the-pulpit that I’ve found so far. They are a pretty little plant but seem to want to grow around poison ivy, so getting a photo of one without having to tiptoe around poison requires careful reconnaissance before attempting a photo.