Big, bold and filled with good portent, the full moon in June sets the stage for a late-night walk through the valley

Big, bold and filled with good portent, the full moon in June sets the stage for a late-night walk through the valley

The second week of June was just as nice as anyone could ask for. Sunny, warm days and cool nights with a beautiful full moon. Local farmers took advantage of the good weather—make hay while the sun shines!

Red angus cattle feed in the gorgeous cradle formed of a Kickapoo valley

Red angus cattle feed in the gorgeous cradle formed of a Kickapoo valley branch

The trout fishermen in the area have been hitting the streams and have had pretty good luck. Many of the anglers wear bug netting over their heads. It keeps the black flies out of their eyes, noses and ears—not to mention their necks and hair lines. Black flies are small, about half the size of a grain of rice, but they love to bite and are very persistent about doing just that. They attack in swarms and can be especially irritating near fresh water streams. After not seeing hardly any in my valley the past couple of summers, I’m finding these little buggers a little hard to deal with. I know from years of experience that as bad as the black flies may seem this year, they can be a lot worse. I remember places where the black flies were so bad that I had to cover my face and hold a hankie over my nose and mouth so I didn’t breathe ‘em in. I’m hoping that they will last for only a couple of weeks then disappear. We’ll see.

I’ve seen mourning cloak butterflies this week as they flutter around the yard. They may land anywhere except on a flower. I’ve also seen a few monarchs here and there but they don’t stop flying long enough for me to photograph. A painted turtle crawled up out of the backwater to get a little morning sun and a pretty monarch butterfly that was passing by spotted the turtle and landed on his shell. It would have been a great picture but by the time I got the camera up to take a picture, the butterfly was gone. Win some, lose some I guess.

This chimney swift was found dead on the road, another tragic end in the ongoing conflict between our roads and our wildlife

This chimney swift was found dead on the road, another tragic end in the ongoing conflict between our roads and our wildlife

It always makes me sad to see an animal or bird lying dead in the road. It doesn’t seem fair that they should have to pay such a high price for our “need” to drive so fast. Whenever possible, I stop and check to see what kind of bird has been killed and then move them away from the road. This week alone the bird casualties included a bluebird, two robins, two red-winged blackbirds, an indigo bunting, two cliff swallows and a screech-owl. Another small bird lying dead in the road was a surprise to me, a bird that I’ve never found hit by a car, a little chimney swift. Fuel isn’t the only thing we could save by slowing down; the lives of millions of songbirds could be saved if we simply ease up on the gas pedal.

I’ve enjoyed the catbirds in the valley this summer. They always seem to be around and their songs are a nice addition to all the other bird songs. They are very active, inquisitive and quick to scold anyone who comes too close to their nest. Their songs are many and you never know what one may sing next. They often sound like a thrasher or mockingbird. The catbird gets its name from its cat-like “mews” that sound like an angry cat.

I couldn’t resist a walk under the full moon last night; it’s always a good chance to see what is going on in the valley after dark. The moon was so bright that I could easily see a far in every direction, and I saw a deer in the meadow more than a hundred yards away. I also surprised a pair of raccoons who were busy searching for frogs along the creek. I still haven’t seen the new baby woodchucks, although I’ve watched the female every day near the old shed. I’m pretty sure she has moved her young ones from under the brush pile to a dryer and safer place in the old shed.

The meadow fritillaries add spectacular orange accents to the valley grass lands

The meadow fritillary adds spectacular orange accents to the valley grass lands

It’s been nice to see some butterflies fluttering around the yard and garden the past couple of days. There still aren’t many of them but there are several different kinds. A pretty red admiral lit near the back porch this morning. He’s the first of his kind I’ve seen this year and I’m hoping there will be more in a week or so. A couple of orange meadow fritillaries and a large yellow swallow-tail were busy feeding on the nectar of what few flowers are blooming. I’m sure I’ll see more as more and more flowers come into bloom.

The brown snake slithers for a moment in my hand before I let him go back to his day in the grass

The brown snake slithers for a moment in my hand before I let him go back to his day in the grass

I’m always glad to see a snake. I picked up a little brown snake that was slithering through the short grass. He was only about eight inches long and flicked his tongue in and out to detect my scent. These small snakes are harmless and are easy to snatch up for a closer look.

Twin fawns I later learned were two of three--triplets!

Twin fawns I later learned were two of three–triplets!

The nervous chapping sounds of a robin told me to take a look out the window. I knew there was something bothering her, and, sure enough, the female robin was talking to a doe that was standing in the tall grass and not far from the robin’s nest. A few seconds later a little fawn appeared next to the doe and then another spotted fawn sprang up to join them. By the time I got my camera and returned to the window the doe and her twins were disappearing around the front of the house. I moved to a window on the north side of the house and saw them following their mother to the road at the end of the driveway. I had only a second to snap a picture before they were out of my view again. To my surprise, there were now three fawns following the doe. Triplets! How exciting to have triplets so close to the house. I only wish I could have gotten a better picture of them. With a little luck they will hang around for a while and I’ll see them again when my camera’s in my hand.

Naturally yours,

Dan