Monday, May 31, 2010

Mt Chocorua

We headed north on Route 16 at 7 am, directly into the smoke-tinted haze blanketing northern New Hampshire and beyond. It seemed like many more people were headed the other way, perhaps heading home early from a long weekend to escape the smoke. Strong winds had forced smoky air from Quebec fires our way, smothering views of the high peaks, as well as our destination at just under 3,500' -- Mt. Chocorua.

As we set off on the Champney Falls Trail with Kodi trotting by our side, the air seemed clear and just cool enough for pleasant hiking. Not until 2 miles in did we meet other people; for the rest of the hike though we passed many others with the same idea, including at least 7 other dogs. Kodi was polite with everyone and every dog.

This was Kodi's first long hike of his life (that we know of). Much to our delight we discovered that he is a superb hiking companion. Only once did he make our heart skip a beat, when he scrambled down a steep rock along Champney Brook, then turned to climb back up, only to slide backwards over into a deep pool. He swam calmly to shore and raced back up to the trail. From then on we were confident of his back country skills.

Me and Kodi atop Mt. Chocorua

We discovered black flies on top of Mt. Chocorua. They swarmed us whenever the breeze died, which seemed too often. They crawled in our hair, under watch bands, inside our clothes. After a quick lunch we retreated back down the trail. No one paused long on top, given the persistent black flies and the hazy views.

  A smoke-tinted view

Despite the smoke, and the haze, and the flies, it was a great hike. Pink lady's slippers dotted the trail side, including the all-white versions. Along the way we listened to warblers, vireos, thrushes, and a winter wren. On the way down we splashed cold water from Champney Brook on our faces, while Kodi drank the clear mountain water.

pink lady's slipper (Cypripedium acaule), white form

Champney Falls

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pollen (and Smoke) in the Air

I smelled just a hint of smoke in the air today. It reminded me of India, where the humid air holds all sorts of smells and where someone is always burning something. The air here looked hazy too. We drove to Durham for errands and a walk with Kodi. The air smelled the same. Only then did we realize that it was pollen. UPDATE: I just read that smoke from fires burning in southern Quebec was reaching us here in southern New Hampshire. So it really was smoke in the air. The smoke plus pollen made the air thick.

Tree pollen, especially from white pine, seems especially high this year. I never suffer from allergies, but my throat had a tickle. The air looks cloudy, there is the faint smell of smoke, and the ground is covered in yellow powder. After last nights rain a bright yellow puddle formed at the bottom of the driveway. On our woodland walk with Kodi we noticed that everything was covered in yellow -- all the way down to the understory plants including the wild sarsaparilla.

wild sarsaparilla coated in yellow pollen

Thankfully neither of us suffers from allergies. This would be a difficult day if you did, especially in New Hampshire. Click on this pollen/allergy forecast and you'll see that our state is high compared to most of the country.

We postponed our hike up Mt. Chocorua until tomorrow, when the weather is expected to be excellent for a hike. Steady winds are already clearing the air of pollen.

Another interesting trend this year, in addition to high pollen levels, is the lack of black flies. Knock on wood, but I don't think we've seen a black fly yet this year. Where are they? Not that I miss them, but you do wonder.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Spotted Turtle

Just as I started to water the garden late in the afternoon dark clouds moved in followed by a brief rainstorm. Enough rain for now that I put the hose away. Once it cleared we took Aria and Kodi up the road to a conservation area.

Late afternoons at this time of year, just after a rain, are lovely. A light breeze was enough to keep the mosquitoes quiet. The dogs sniffed deeply in the wet grass along the trail that winds through an old orchard and grassy field, to a wetland, and beyond. We stopped at the wetland for the dogs to wade in and retrieve a stick or two. An old stone dam provides a crossing and access to back land. A marsh was created when the stream was dammed. Sedges and cattails and alders rim the open water. A few logs in the water offer sunning spots for turtles.

While the dogs were focused on the water, I looked for snakes and turtles. Sure enough, there was a spotted turtle, in the middle of the trail as it crosses the old stone dam. This is a threatened species in New Hampshire. She (her underside or plastron was flat which is one key to sexing turtles: a male's plastron is concave) was 4 to 5 inches long -- spotted turtles are relatively small. The yellow spots that dot its smooth, black back (or carapace) give the turtle its name.

This spotted turtle may have just been wandering or maybe she was off to lay eggs. It is turtle nesting season; the time of year to be watchful on the road. Although some people probably hit turtles by accident, there are many heartless people who run over turtles and snakes on purpose. Road mortality and illegal collection are two main reasons for turtle declines. We were glad to find this turtle living in a wetland that is within a large area of conserved land.

I put her gently back down among the cattails. The dogs never noticed her, as they were busy elsewhere. We left her to her wanderings, and we hope a successful nesting season.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Too Much Sun

My blog posts were sparse this week. I think it was the heat. Tuesday and Wednesday topped ninety degrees. I spent much of Wednesday outside. In the morning I helped at New Roots Farm. All the other farm assistants are younger than me and they seemed less zapped by the intense sun. In the afternoon I walked dogs for two hours at the SPCA. For the first time the dogs seemed anxious to get back inside where it was air conditioned.

All my energy for creative writing was zapped by the sun as well as a series of online training courses that I am taking. These training modules were developed by a federal agency (that I will leave unnamed). The intent is to educate and inform on how to work with landowners within a framework of many, many federal laws. Instead the courses are making me listless and dumb. I usually don't like the word bureaucratic because politicians use it when they don't know what they are talking about. But these courses seem very bureaucratic and a bit removed from reality -- from the soil, air, water, plants, and animals that we are meant to better protect and manage by taking these courses.

Admittedly I am speed reading the course content, just so my brain doesn't fizzle completely. I have completed 3 out of 5 courses. Two more to go. Sometime during this Memorial Day weekend I will finish it off. Before that though we are heading north tomorrow for a day hike up Mt. Chocorua in the southern part of the White Mountains. This will be the first real hike for Kodi. He is in great shape and there is a stream along the way, which he will enjoy. Hiking up the trail, breathing in the wood air, soaking up the view from the top and I'll be ready to tackle whatever the remaining online courses throw at me. At least I can daydream about the hike, while I speed read my way to the end of the course.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lady's slippers on Stingy River Road

Around mid-day I walked Stingy River Road, a class VI dirt road located in a fairly remote corner of Epping and Raymond. The rarely traveled road crosses the Pawtuckaway River, a quiet meandering waterway that is now largely protected thanks to the Southeast Land Trust of New Hampshire.

The road is not maintained by either town, but it is drivable in snow free conditions. I elected to walk as I was on a mission for the land trust, looking for invasive plant species. The woodlands on each side of the road shaded me from the mid-day heat. Along the way - deep in the forest -- I found a small population of Japanese knotweed just off the road, far from any human habitation or other noticeable disturbance except the very old woods road. My thought is that someone dumped a bit of fill and trash in this spot within the last few years. And as I've been saying over the past few days: invasive plants are moved in fill and other material.

Farther along the road I stopped for a drink of water and noticed a couple pink lady's slippers. This is a fairly common plant in our woods, but it is still exquisite.

 pink lady's slipper, Cypripedium acaule

The only sound I heard while enjoying the lady's slippers in the noontime heat were chipmunks. Stingy River Road is bounded on each side by a stone wall. Throughout New England chipmunks have adopted stone walls as one of their favorite habitats. Here, deep in the woods, many chipmunks called. We were noticing back home in our neighborhood that the stone walls seem empty of chipmunks. We thought perhaps a population crash during the past few years, but I'm thinking a neighborhood cat or two might be one culprit. Probably the coyotes, fox, and owls, take a share too. They will rebound.

Back home, as I expected the phoebes fledged from their nest -- all three were gone today. I hope they survive their first flights. The robin eggs are hatching today. I peeked in first thing this morning when the mother was off collecting insects. One tiny head was wiggling among the remaining eggs. By mid-afternoon a second one had hatched. The robin seems more alert than ever to our movements. With the temperature reaching the low 90s by tomorrow she'll need to keep the youngsters cool and go for food. It will be a busy time in our front yard.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Uninvited Beetle

Three weeks ago we bought 3 yards of loam/compost from a local nursery to augment our gardens. I put it in nearly every garden including around a highbush cranberry in the front yard. This morning as we started on our walk I suddenly noticed that a third of the cranberry was defoliated. As I looked closer I noticed many caterpillar-like larvae. On further research I am certain it is the Viburnum leaf beetle and I suspect it came in on the loam/compost.

I just wrote about this on Friday -- be careful of the source of loam and compost. Now I have more anecdotal evidence of this problem of moving material, at the expense of the the highbush cranberry. The shrub will likely recover, unless the beetle hangs around and defoliates the entire plant again next year.

Besides the discovery of this little insect in our yard, the weekend was beautiful. The weather gods seem to be in sync as we've had our second spectacular weekend in a row. All the New Roots Farm seedlings found a home in the garden. Just a few hours after I planted a bed of annuals at the base of our deck stairs, a ruby-throated hummingbird zoomed in for a quick sip of nectar at the red salvia. The robin is still sitting on eggs and the three phoebe nestlings beneath the deck are getting too big for the nest. One day soon I will look and they will have taken flight.

We are harvesting fresh cilantro planted last fall and turning it into pesto that goes nicely with grilled eggplant, onion, and zucchini. It is an easy recipe from Mark Bittman: in blender mix 2 cups fresh cilantro, a clove garlic, pinch or more of salt, 3 tablespoons corn oil, add  a tablespoon of lime juice then puree. The rhubarb is being made into crisp and pie. My spearmint -- delicious in tabouli -- keeps advancing on the lawn until I corral it back to its rightful place in the herb garden.

A nice weekend, except for the pesky viburnum leaf beetle that arrived uninvited.

Friday, May 21, 2010

What's in the Fill?

Yesterday I spent the day at a workshop at the Seacoast Science Center, which lies within Odiorne State Park on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. The water shimmered under a blue sky, the Isles of Shoals looked close, students visiting the Science Center clambered over the exposed intertidal rocks. The focus of our workshop, however, was landward and less idyllic.

Invasive plants. Sometimes it seems hopeless trying to remove existing infestations and repel new ones. The workshop speakers, experienced in both, were determined and motivational. It is worth the effort they said -- to restore and maintain natural habitats, to maintain native plants that an array of native insects and other wildlife are adapted to, to ensure that natural systems keep functioning. The monarch butterfly is an example. It depends on common milkweed for its life cycle, but in some places in the northeast the invasive pale swallow-wort (also in the milkweed family) is taking over fields and crowding out native plants. Although the two plants are from the same family, monarchs cannot use swallow-wort.

A panel of three focused entirely on Japanese knotweed. The stems look like bamboo. It forms dense stands and is one of the most difficult invasive plants to control. Mowing spreads the plant farther. Knotweed spreads quickly along waterways and roadways; its rhizomes can move long distances undetected underground, extending up to 30 feet and 10 feet deep! This is one plant that most everyone agrees can only be controlled with repeated treatments of herbicide if the stands are more than a few stems. To avoid use of chemicals, small infestations must be removed as soon as they are detected.

Many people may wonder why there is such concern about invasive plants. A knotweed here, a buckthorn there, a few garlic mustard, burning bush, or honeysuckle in the yard. It's about the numbers. One of the most pernicious traits of these plants is that they spread very, very quickly given the right conditions.

Early detection and rapid response was the message of the day, especially if one goal is to avoid use of chemicals. Once an infestation gets beyond a certain size, hand pulling or digging becomes ineffective or incredibly labor intensive.

Another interesting discussion at the workshop is the movement of material from place to place: fill, gravel, mulch, loam, compost, leaves. It is now known that many invasive plants are being moved from property to property and along roads in these materials. My dad and I just discovered last weekend that the source of garlic mustard on Winterberry Farm was probably in the loads of leaves that he got from the town for use as mulch.

A few recommendations from the workshop:
  • Know the source of any fill, mulch, loam, or other material brought to your property
  • Get to know the invasive plants in your area and employ early detection-early response
  • Avoid staging or piling debris on or mowing areas of invasive plants, unless it is part of a control effort, as you might spread the invasives farther
  • Remember to focus on the goal: preserving our natural heritage -- the biological diversity native to the region
I'll be watching for monarchs flitting among the common milkweed.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Our Yard

Rain started during the night and should continue all day. A good soaking that we needed. We spend a lot of time in our yard. We like to garden, enjoying the flowers that bloom from now until fall and picking fresh vegetables for dinner. The dogs like to run around and roll in the grass. Each day we check the peach trees to measure the growth of the peach fruits and wondering if this will be a banner year. Last year was a bust for peaches.

Once a year Srini applies a bit of fertilizer to the lawn, but mostly we let nature take care of the rest. We apply no pesticides or herbicides or other treatments to control pests or weeds. Regular hand weeding and hoeing and using plastic and straw takes care of weeds in the garden. I hand pick Japanese beetles when they arrive -- easy on cool mornings when the beetles are sluggish. Wasps and skunks and moles help balance pests that might otherwise overwhelm our plantings. Bees and butterflies pollinate the plants.

In the spring we add compost to the gardens, compost made from our kitchen scraps, leaves and grass clippings, and other discarded organic matter. Sometimes we buy a few yards of organic compost from a nursery. I divide and move perennials each spring, rarely needing to buy new plants. The tomato, eggplant, pepper, and other vegetable seedlings come from Renee at New Roots Farm, traded for my volunteering for them.

The lawn is mostly grass, but plantain and dandelions and other weeds, are mixed in. I think that diversity is good. I wonder at those who apply chemicals and numerous applications of fertilizers to their lawn only to create a desert in their yard. I see little life there. Here we have painted turtle hatchlings crawling through the yard in spring, the phoebe under the deck is gathering insects to feed its nestlings, the robin is sitting on four blue eggs in the crabapple tree. The hummingbirds will arrive soon, gathering nectar from the coral bells that I got from my mother's garden at Winterberry Farm.

The female robin sits on four blue eggs in the crabapple.

As much as we enjoy the gardens, it feels good to know that others enjoy them too. On Sunday a woman bicycling by stopped to say that she loves our gardens, they make her smile each time she passes.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Sign at New Roots

Today was farm day. I did not notice until I was leaving that they have a beautiful new sign!

Two more goat kids arrived since I was last there. Nightshade gave birth to twin boys. My, my, now there are five boys and no girls.

Nightshade's kids -- the two on the right -- are gray-brown and look like their mother. Although born a week later, they are already bigger than the triplets. All are healthy. The triplets are still small enough that they can escape the box wire fence. This is cute until they get into the greenhouse and start eating plants.

The greenhouse that was blown down in the February hurricane and that was re-built is now full of seedlings. I selected several dozen seedlings for our garden: big beef, san marzano, green zebra, grape, sun gold, and cherry tomatoes, beatrice, pingtung and fairy tale eggplant, various kinds of peppers, and a bit of zucchini, cucumber and Swiss chard. And a dozen basil seedlings. Sometimes my eyes are bigger than our garden plot.

While I was exclaiming over the recent good weather, Farmer Jeff was lamenting the lack of rain. Farmers always have a different outlook. He is right though. Things are looking and feeling a little dry. Rain expected tomorrow. We need a good soaking.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Perfect Weekend

This past weekend was one of the most beautiful in memory. Perfect for working in the yard. A steady breeze kept mosquitoes away. The sky remained blue with only fair weather clouds now and then. The temperature ideal, hovering around 70 F. Birds were building nests or sitting on eggs, the males singing at the edges of their territories, all around the yard at Winterberry Farm.

We returned home by mid-afternoon to mow and water our own lawn and gardens. Aria and Bella were tired as were we; all turned in early and slept soundly as a cool breeze wafted in through open windows. A pair of barred owls stirred us from sleep in the wee hours of the morning. Their raucous cackling and laughter sounded close. We drifted off to sleep again.

Sometime before the alarm sounded at 5 am I heard a veery singing from the back woods. They arrived here just last week. The veery lives in the damp woods between our house and the wetland. Their breezy, descending song, vreer, vreer, vreer, vreer, vreer starts before dawn and continues late into the evening. During the day I hear them call, veer. This cinnamon-colored thrush spends most of its time on or near the ground, where it builds a nest and flips over leaves in search of insects.

Monday morning and it feels like just another perfect day.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cows and a Turtle

We're down at Winterberry Farm, visiting my parents and celebrating a friend's college graduation. Most of the day was spent mowing, weeding, planting perennials and annuals, pulling the invasive garlic mustard, walking the dogs in the back forty. A steady breeze blew all day, keeping the bugs away. Kodi met the six cows that Brookfield Farm is pasturing on our land. They were all quite curious of him too. He raced into the pasture a few times, but once the cows came thundering after him, he stayed outside the fence.

This evening as we walked past, the cows ran alongside the fence making sure Kodi kept to his side of the fence. He obeyed.

We continued on our walk as the cows watched our progress. We passed by a female painted turtle in the midst of laying eggs at the edge of the farm road that passes over the Winterberry Pond dam. Kodi missed her completely. He was sniffing for cow patties instead.

Meanwhile, a red-tailed hawk soared silently overhead, perhaps out for once last hunt before nightfall. It carried something white in its beak -- maybe a large moth. A small meal for a big bird, or maybe a morsel for a nestling. It flew steadily southwest before it passed out of sight. We wandered slowly back to the house, soaking up the last light of the day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Mohave Cross

You may have read about the seven-foot tall cross that stood on Sunrise Rock in the Mohave National Preserve. The Supreme Court ruled recently that the cross can stay at this site on public land. The New York Times wrote about the controversy here. After the high court's decision, the cross was stolen.

I first learned about the cross controversy by reading the blog Coyote Crossing (aka Chris Clarke). Chris writes passionately and deeply about the Mohave Desert. He was indifferent about the presence of the cross on the rock in a public space. It seemed a small thing compared to the greater threats to the desert, such as large industrial solar arrays.When the cross was stolen he thought it not helpful to the cause of desert conservation. Then he became incensed at the massive attention and backlash against the theft. He wondered if those who care about the cross also care about the desert.

In his latest post here, Chris ponders more deeply the motives of the cross thief. He includes a letter apparently written by the one who took the cross and sent anonymously to the Barstow Desert Dispatch. Although the letter has not been independently verified, it is an eloquent statement and adds much to the discussion.

I've included the letter below (click on text to enlarge), clipped from Coyote Crossing. Check out Chris's blog, the New York Times article, and the Desert Dispatch for more context.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Maple gave birth to three sons on Sunday. She is one of two goats at New Roots Farm and is doing well. The triplets are also healthy and each is a slightly different color.

Maple the mother goat,
smiling and waiting for her snack of freshly cut apple branches.

Three new kid brothers at New Roots Farm

The Farm is buzzing with activity. The new greenhouse is overflowing with seedlings, some ready to go in the ground after the last frost (not this week!) and some ready for sale. The flock of sheep is moved every day or so to fresh pasture. Farmer Jeff is as happy about the sheep and rotational grazing as Farmer Renee is with her new kid goats.

Yesterday I helped farmers Jeff and Renee, farm assistant Joanne, and farm apprentice Ben plant 13,000 plus onions. I was there only a few hours, while they were all there until mid-afternoon. With the last onion in the ground we stood, stretched out the kinks in our legs and back, massaged our planting fingers, and gave high fives all around. A good day on the farm when food goes in the ground.

Now, if only Jack Frost would retreat somewhere farther north.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Oak Apple Gall

Srini found me a present on Saturday while on our morning walk with Aria and Kodi -- a light green, golf ball-sized, oak apple gall.

We typically notice these more later in the summer when the gall changes color and texture to a thin, brown, papery shell. The round gall is actually a deformed or mutated leaf. You can see in the photo that the normal growth of this red oak leaf went haywire. A small wasp laid an egg at the base of the midvein of a leaf bud. The larva that hatched released chemicals that caused the tree to form a protective structure around the egg -- the gall.

Inside the center of the gall the larva eventually pupates and with time an adult wasp emerges. The adult wasp then drills its way out -- if you find the brown papery galls later in summer look for the tiny drill hole. The oak apple gall wasp -- the cause of these odd-looking "apples" on oak trees -- is apparently harmless to the tree.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Day For Drying

The day started cool (40 F), clear, and windy, and is ending much the same. Throughout the day clouds moved, winds blew continuously, and the sun played with the clouds. By mid-afternoon it warmed to the mid-50s. It was a day for extra layers, especially a wind breaker. A great day for drying clothes outside on the line.

 Clouds swirling and winds whipping; leaves hang on for dear life today.

Such a pleasure to work in the yard in May without gnats or black flies or mosquitoes buzzing in and around our ears. The constant wind kept all pests at bay. We mowed the lawn, weeded and transplanted perennials, and erected chicken fencing around the vegetable garden. The fence is to keep out the Mischievous Mr. Kodi. He seems to have a fetish for green plants. Rather like the Fantastic Mr. Fox, who can't resist stealing from nearby farmers. If you've not seen Fantastic Mr. Fox I highly recommend the movie.

 The Mischievous Mr. Kodi

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Morning Chorus Grows

The pace of arrivals quickens and the morning chorus of birds becomes more complex. Baltimore orioles arrived in the neighborhood yesterday, their cheery whistling notes and brilliant orange feathers brighten any morning. I heard the raspy wee-eep call of the great crested flycatcher and the slow speaking blue-headed vireo, here I the tree......look at me as I walked with Kodi through oak-pine woods. The songs of two warblers floated out from the thicket of dogwoods, alders, and viburnums bordering the Longmarsh Road wetlands. The secretive common yellowthroat singing witchity, witchity, witchity, and the oh so sweet yellow warbler with its sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm so sweet.

The energetic house wren turned up in the neighbor's forsythia bushes this morning, where one lives every year. Their chatter loud and very wren-like. I heard one buzzy phrase from a black-throated-blue warbler singing from the underbrush -- zoo, zoo, zoo, zreee -- and then no more. Two downy woodpeckers drummed, first one then the other. They sounded alike to me, but a female downy surely picks up a difference in their pitch and intensity.

Along with new bird arrivals each day, more woodland flowers open too. The clintonia, or blue-bead lily, is flowering now. The subtle pale yellow flowers could be overlooked on a woodland walk. Look for 2-3 large, basal leaves surrounding the taller, leafless flower stalk. Looking for the blue-bead lily and other woodland flowers gives the neck a rest, after craning your neck toward the treetops in search of small hard to see warblers.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Trilling Toads

The air was thick yesterday, almost sultry. Warmer and stickier than it should be so early in the growing season. By early evening the air had cleared with the aid of a nice breeze.

Earlier in the day I heard several new woodland arrivals. A wood thrush sang ee-oh-lay, then uttered a rapid pit-pit-pit. He competed with an ovenbird that loudly proclaimed its arrival by singing teacher, teacher, teacher.

In late afternoon I listened to a chorus of American toads trilling along the shore of Pawtuckaway Lake. Many toads called for mates. One toad began to trill, then another, then another, and so on down the shore, each on a slightly different pitch. The toad inflates his vocal sac -- like a bubble gum bubble at his throat -- continuously forcing air over its vocal cords to create a trill for up to 30 seconds.

This short, stout toad spends only a few weeks at the water's edge. The rest of the year it wanders alone in the upland. I see them hopping among our gardens, sometimes hurrying to bury themselves backwards into the soft soil. I see them while hiking at several thousand feet, and all places in between.

The American toad is a lovely amphibian, warts and all. After mating the female toad will lay a black necklace of eggs. Frogs lay eggs in clusters, while the toads lay their eggs in strings. Toads protect themselves from predators -- such as snakes, raccoons, and skunks -- by secreting toxins from skin glands. These secretions are relatively harmless to humans, although may cause some irritation if in contact with mucous membranes. I am happy to see a plump toad in the garden helping to control unwanted pests. A good sign of a healthy yard.

Trill on Mr. Toad.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Watching the Peas Grow

The sugar snap peas are up and grew at least an inch today on a warm May day -- a high of 88 degrees here.

The sugar snap pea growth spurt capped a fine weekend of weather and yard work. We pushed many wheelbarrow loads of compost and loam to the perennial beds, to trees and shrubs, to small holes dug by Kodi during his first few weeks, and to other sparse patches of lawn. The black flies were out but their numbers few. Aria relaxed next to the yew in soft loam where she had a commanding view of Srini working in the yard and where she was safe from Kodi's playful but pesky antics.

I heard the raspy song of the scarlet tanager that must have arrived overnight in our neighbor's red oak tree. In late afternoon three eastern kingbirds flew overhead calling as they went. The migrants are arriving in ones and twos.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


The robins and phoebes are sitting on eggs by now, but nestlings are still a few weeks off yet. We did find one hatchling in our yard today -- a painted turtle. Srini is great at spotting these quarter-sized turtles. They overwinter as eggs and always seem to emerge as we tend the gardens -- weeding, adding compost and loam, dividing perennials. I've never accidentally dug up a turtle nest, so perhaps the hoeing and shoveling is enough ground disturbance to motivate the newborn turtles.

 The small turtles are always heading in the right direction - toward the wetland. I give them a hand up by airlifting them closer to the wetland. These little turtles are so young and yet they look so old. I am in awe of their ability to survive overwinter and then to trek a long distance (for a coin-sized animal) to the nearest waterbody. Yet they carry both protection and crawling tools with them. Just look at those legs. And they tuck completely into their shell as the need arises.

Each spring day reveals new treasures in our yard. Along with the turtle hatchling we heard some new arrivals: black-throated-green warbler and blue-headed vireo. The warblers are coming!

First Walks of 2024

We rise early, well before sunrise. It helps to go to bed early. Fortunately the New Year's Eve celebratory fireworks in the neighborhoo...