Beaver Meadow

The heat had been oppressive for a good long time making poor old Winter Woman mighty miserable… and producing way too many, too big cucumbers in the garden. We designated Saturday as as Relish-Making Day (part 2). I put on a sun dress and sandals in hopes of staying cool during the preparations, cooking, and canning. To my delight, a weather-changing downpour ensued throughout the morning… clearing the air and lowering the temperatures.

Borrowed Adventure Clothes

Here I am in front of a stand of very tall Joe-Pye Weed in the height of fashion in my borrowed adventure clothes.

The dogs had been so patient throughout the morning that we decided to give them an adventure while the jars of relish cooled. I was without adventure clothes, so Terry loaned me jeans, shirt, and socks… and my own old hiking boots which I forgot I had left at his house for just such occasions.

We headed down into the woods and started out on familar trails. We weren’t far into the woods before we saw some cool stuff… and I was glad I decided to bring the camera after all.

Lacewing

Lacewing

Fungus with Slug

Fungus with Slug

 At some point, we took a turn that led us in a direction we had never hiked before and we found ourselves in a huge beaver meadow…  the lush open meadow left after a beaver pond is abandoned.  We followed the creek which because of the rain was overflowing its banks and making wonderful rushing water sounds.  All along the way the wet-loving flowers were flourishing – taller this year than I have ever seen them.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower

Mystery Flower

Mystery Flower (If you know what this is, please: Tell!)

Joe-Pye Weed

Joe-Pye Weed

Blue Vervain

Blue Vervain

Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed

There was also Boneset, but it hadn’t flowered yet – still just tight buds, but also very tall!

Picnic Table

I took this photo last fall when we approached it from a logging road rather than a beaver meadow.

We weren’t sure where we were exactly… until we saw a picnic table…  a familiar picnic table… from other wanders in these woods…  We climbed up out of the former beaver pond to sit briefly and enjoy the view, before heading home again.

It was a gorgeous, perfect walk. Couldn’t have asked for anything better.

Oh! And I almost forgot! I saw the biggest grasshopper I think I’ve ever seen in these parts. He was gi-normous!

Grasshopper

In some countries, they might try to eat this guy!

Advice for a pretty summer day: put on your adventure clothes and go exploring. Don’t worry about getting wet and muddy. That’s why they’re called adventure clothes!

Here is one of the beautiful scenes of the Beaver Meadow:

Creek Through the Beaver Meadow

Creek Through the Beaver Meadow

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Guest Post

Well, friends, here is the final post in the Squirrel Saga, and an announcment! My friend finally has his own blog. Check it out:

http://woodpeckerwrites.wordpress.com


Squirrel Wars – Part III

Well, friends, I have run headlong into Occam’s Razor. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s a scientific theory which states that in a complex problem the simplest answer is most often the correct one. Now, I thought about all sorts of sophisticated solutions to my squirrel problem: new traps, different bait, further adjustments to the trap I already had. Thankfully, I never once thought of poison for these beautiful creatures of God. They are the acrobats of our Great Lakes ecosystem, after all.

Pha, a.k.a. Frankencat

Instead, I have created Frankencat. As you may recall, my last act of desperation was to tie my cat, Pha, on a short leash outside. Well, she is now totally spoiled and the leash has lengthened to about 12 feet. With this heat wave she has become so totally spoiled that she spends all day out there. She’s not interested in the birds, and they come and go as they please; she couldn’t reach them up on the feeders anyway. But the chipmunks and squirrels, which are ground travelers, are in total shock. I hear their angry chittering from the trees and bushes, and believe me, so does Frankencat. While she’s out, not a single mammal has dared step foot in my garden or the bird feeders. I’m sure they steal down after dark for a snack, but it’s nothing like it was, for me or for Pha.

So there you have it. The simplest answer was to put something higher on the food chain in their way, but we humans think we’re smarter than that. I’m not sure who Occam was, but I think he was a very wise man.

Green Home Chautauqua

Please click on over to Audubon’s newest website: Green Home Chautauqua!

The idea behind it is to provide folks in the Western New York region the resources they need to do green renovations.  Right now, it is mostly a template and we are looking for help filling in the content… so, if you know contractors and suppliers of green products or services, OR if you know of a homeowner who has installed something “green” and would be willing to tell his or her story on this website, please let me know!!

Thanks!

Giant Hogweed

Usually, the phone calls sent to the Education Department involve birds. We call out, “Stupid bird question on line one.” Of course, the questions are rarely stupid and we actually enjoy the break in our day… a chance to help someone with a Real Puzzle or Problem.

A couple of weeks ago, it wasn’t a bird question, though. It was a flower question. A very nice lady from Lakewood, NY called and described in excellent detail a flower that is growing in her backyard – at the back of the mowed bit – just in the tree line separating her property from her neighbor’s. I was pretty sure from her description that she had a rather nasty, noxious plant called Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) … which I had only read about and never seen. I asked if I might drop by to see it. She said, “Yes, of course.” I advised her not to touch it or try to remove it as it could give her a nasty reaction.

Giant Hogweed and Bob

Bob is six feet, one inch tall... for comparison...

It was, just as she described it, about seven feet tall. Giant Hogweed can get to be as high as fifteen feet, according to the literature.  The flat cluster of white flowers reminds you of Queen Anne’s Lace – but it is much bigger and does not have the curly bracts underneath.

Giant Hogweed

The stem is thick and sturdy – green, and colored with deep reddish purple reminding you of rhubarb. Giant Hogweed The deeply cut leaves are two or three feet across (and can get to be five feet across).

I found some literature for the discoverer of the plant. I also called the DEC Hogweed Hotline where I was able to leave a message on the voice mail. The answering machine voice told me that this is their busy season and it may take a while to get back to me…  As of this writing, it has been about two weeks and I haven’t heard a thing yet.

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, Giant Hogweed was probably brought to Europe and North America from it’s native range in Central and South Asia to be used as an ornamental in gardens.  It’s large size made it unique and appealing to gardeners with a penchant for the exotic.  Seeds spread by wind and water, and the plant can also spread from the strong root stock, so the plants we now find along roadsides, railbeds, and stream banks are most likely escapees from someone’s garden.

Unfortunately, it is not a happy match for humans.  Get sap on your skin and then expose that skin to sun and you are likely to break out in a nasty rash.  Get the sap in your eyes and you may suffer temporary or even permanent blindness!

I have mixed feelings.  While I’m happy to have finally seen this plant in person, I’m not happy that it is growing in Chautauqua County!

Learn More:

Guest Post

I’ve been encouraging a friend to start a blog. He refuses. But sometimes he sends me little stories. I asked if I could post this one on my blog as a guest post. He said yes, but picked a pen name… You’ll have to guess who it is. (But I won’t confirm your answers.)

Squirrel Wars

by “Woodpecker”

I love squirrels, their playful attitude and the way they scurry from tree limb to tree limb, but the past few days I’ve felt like Bill Murray in”Caddyshack”.

Red Squirrel - by Jeremy Martin

Red Squirrel - by Jeremy Martin

I caught one of the little red ground squirrels coming out of my bird box (where the wrens lived) with feathers in his mouth. Now, it’s bad enough that I can’t keep them from leaping from the fences onto any birdfeeder they want, but this was too much. I resolved to initiate eminent domain and execute a forced relocation.

Off to the hardware store I went, and came home very satisfied with a small animal live trap, which would let me drive the scoundrel to a park about a mile away.

Then I tried to set it up. Needing the skilled hands of a surgeon to get the tension properly adjusted, and lacking this skill, I fought with the aluminum contraption for at least half an hour before I finally decided I had it.

Round One:  I positioned the trap under a tree they favor and waited for their chirping voices. It didn’t take long, and the guilty squirrel began a whole series of excited rushes and false charges, always stopping and running back up the tree. Finally he approached it slowly and my excitement mounted. But rather than enter one of the two doors, he kept up a sideways attack. Finally, he jiggled it enough to set off the trap, which sent him off up the tree for a long, long time. Good, I thought, maybe I’ve scared him away for good. Just in case, I moved the trap across the walkway and into one corner of my garden.

Round Two:  about 5 or 10 minutes later I heard the chittering of my nemisis. This time he had brought a fiend, a smaller lighter version of himself, which I assume was his mate.

Can you imagine the conversation back at the nest?

“Really honey, there was a huge pile of that peanut butter-like stuff we love back there, but it’s inside some stange metal thing with doors and rods that scare me. I don’t wanna go in; come see.”

“Really Sam you are such a baby. But I’ll go look.”

The two of them came down the tree trunk, the male in the lead as if to say “uh oh, it’s moved, stand back.”

The female hesitated for about one second and then marched right in the trap door, took a good-sized hunk of the bait and then camly backed out before going back up the tree, pausing just long enough to look at hubby like he was a total wuss.

Hubby waited a few nervous minutes before repeating her moves.

Obviously, something was wrong with the trap, so I went out and checked everything twice, touching the bait tray with a stick and “boom!”, the trap doors slammed shut each time. My doubts about the tension of the rods and ability to read instructions let up just a little.

I told myself it was just a matter of time and waited…

Round Three:  With the trap now in the garden I could watch even more closely what might be going wrong. But just watching and waiting soon grew boring so I went back to a good book I’ve been reading. I don’t know how much time passed, but suddenly out of the corner of my eye I spotted one of the dastardly duo doing what they seem to do best: hanging upside down on one of my suet woodpecker feeders gorging itself on some costly stuff I buy to keep my favorite species of birds frequent visitors. I was incensed! I jumped up from my chair and slammed open the screen door and yelled “Get out of here! Find some nuts! That’s bird food you rodent!

You’ll never guess what happened next. The squirrel, as it usually does, scurried down the pole, but did he/she make a bee-line for the tree, which they also usually do?

No. The impudent creature ran straight to the trap AND TOOK REFUGE THERE, running back and forth as if it was a fortress of protection!

That was it for me. Three rounds and out. I had only one ace up my sleeve. After shamefully hauling the trap back inside to ponder poor craftsmanship vs poor comprehension I did the only thing left: I strapped Pha into her harness and leash, wrapped the leash around a fence post and left her a little food and water.

I didn’t hear another squirrel “chirp” the rest of the day.

Today they won the battle, but the war us far from over.

Part II

Sam: Can you believe that guy? What an idiot!

Sally: Yeah, well, don’t act like the brave hero, Mr. “There’s a strange metal box, come save us”.

Sam: Yeah, but that guy can’t even SPELL!!! Have you ever seen anything so bad, you “fiend”? I mean, it’s like he never even HEARD of Spellcheck!

Sally: The funniest thing is he believes that silly cat on a string frightened us away all afternoon. We were just STUFFED!


I’m told there will be more installments to this saga! Can’t wait…

Roadside Weeds

I love flower gardens.  But I’m not much of a gardener.  Unless I can eat it, I’m not likely to tend it.  So I enjoy flowers wherever I can find them.  During this season of the year, I find my eye traveling to the habitat referred to in my wildflower field guides as waste places – the roadsides.  It’s fun to be able to watch the roadside and click off 20 or more species of flowers on my way to work.  I joke with my fellow naturalists about including my lists in my someday book:  Nature at 55.  (That’s 55 miles per hour, not 55 years old, by the way; talk about distracted driving!)

Wanna test yourself? Get out a sheet of paper and number it from 1 to 24. Some are (admittedly) tricky, because I’m not showing you the whole plant! See how you do! (Answers at the bottom.)

1 –
#1

2 –
#2

3 –
#3

4 –
#4

5 –
#5

6 –
#6

7 –
#7

8 –
#8

9 –
#9

10 –
#10

11 –
#11a #11b

12 –
#12

13 –
#13 #13 - also comes in yellow

14 –
#14 - also comes in white

15 –
#15

16 –
#16

17 –
#17

18 –
#18

19 –
#19

20 –
#20

21 –
#21

22 –
#22

23 –
#23

24 –
#24

Bonus Question! Numbers 2, 5, 10, 12 and 23 all have something in common. What is it?

For answers, click:
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