Spiderwort brightens the valley prairie

Spiderwort brightens the valley prairie

The summer weather this past week was very kind to the area gardeners and farmers. With plenty of sunshine and rain, things are growing, including the weeds. The farmers’ corn and bean fields are looking lush and healthy and a lot of hay that has been put into bales. There are a few pesky mosquitos but not so many that they drive me into the house. As predicted, the swarms of black flies that kept me slapping the back of my neck last week have pretty much disappeared. With any luck, we won’t have to deal with them again this summer, but I fear that the hot and humid weather will soon bring an even peskier pest: the deer flies. Enough said

A painted turtle enters the danger zone of roadway pavement

A painted turtle enters the danger zone of roadway pavement

Every year at this time I like to remind people to slow down when driving through areas where there may be turtles crossing the road. I wish I had a dollar for every turtle I’ve helped across the road over the years. This morning a painted turtle was just starting to make her way onto the pavement as I passed by. I pulled safely over and carried the turtle to the ditch on the other side of the road in the direction she was headed. There are many good Samaritans who take the time to help a turtle across the road, but often they mistakenly put the turtle off the side of the road where they see a pond or stream. I recommend the turtle should be placed off the side of the road in the direction they are headed, regardless of whether there is water thataway. A female turtle looks for a place on dry land to lay her eggs, often many yards from the nearest water, if she can find that spot safely, all the better. I came across three different snapping turtles that had been killed on the highway last week; all were 15 to 20 pounds. It seems to me that if you hit something that big in the road, you are driving too fast.

The marsh pond just off the gravel river road is alive and well with muskrats making trails in the duckweed, as dragonflies and swallows zip around over the water. A mama wood duck and her fuzzy little ducklings appear from the cattail reeds and swim single file across the pond. My thoughts turn to the frozen setting of this same pond in February. I prefer the lush, live scene of the pond on a late June morning.

This turkey vulture looks for the source of smelly carrion, without luck

This turkey vulture looks for the source of smelly carrion, without luck

Tuesday, I noticed a not-so-nice aroma in the yard. It was definitely a dead animal lying nearby. With nature’s recycling process comes a putrid odor that makes you hold your nose. I searched for the smelly source but I didn’t find it. Wednesday morning I noticed a large dark bird flash past the kitchen window and land in a tree only 20 feet from the house. The turkey vulture stood on a dead branch for ten minutes just looking around at the dense cover on the ground below him. I think he would have stayed longer but he was shaking his head almost constantly to keep the black flies away. He returned again late in the day to the same tree branch but never went to the ground. I think maybe he could smell his lunch but couldn’t see it. I thought he would lead me to the big stink, but finally he flew off for good.

The birdfeeders have some new visitors this week as the fledgling cardinals, house finches and rose-breasted grosbeak learn how to eat sunflower seeds. Their loud, begging calls are designed to get attention; although it’s not a beautiful melody, I still like to the sound of 6 or 8 young birds begging at once. Some may feel many bird songs are just noisy, but they are all music to my ears.

It's a great year for iris and short primrose

It’s a great year for iris and short primrose

The garden flowers are starting to come on strong and at last I’m seeing all those beautiful colors that I haven’t seen for a whole year. It is a good year for the blue and purple irises—even those I transplanted only last year are now full of beautiful fragrant blossoms. They are extra pretty when a hummingbird is dining on the nectar in the yellow center. The short primrose has become one of my favorite flowers in the yard. Its pretty, large, pansy-like flowers form a lovely bed of yellow for the bumblebees to play on. It’s easy to care for and requires little maintenance, but it likes to spread. Its stunning yellow show will keep the bumblebees happy for a full month. The zinnia transplants are already blooming and I wish I had planted more of them. I usually plant them from seed and they come up thicker and spaced closer to each other. I simply planted the transplants too far apart this year. I convinced myself that a month from now the zinnias will be huge and need the extra space, but a deer had her own ideas of how big the zinnias should be; she nibbled about a dozen of them to the ground. I’m sure she just thought I must have planted them for her.

A banded hairstreak butterfly stopped by for a visit

A banded hairstreak butterfly stopped by for a visit

The more flowers the more butterflies, and zinnias are among their favorite stops. The pretty blue flower of the spiderwort is another butterfly favorite, especially the little silver-spotted skippers and the banded hairstreak. I’m always watching for new butterflies. I never know who I might see the from day-to-day. I encourage everyone to take a closer look at a butterfly, especially if you are with a child who can share in the beauty.

Naturally yours,

Dan