Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Things by any other name...

Isn’t it funny how some things can have a “proper” common name but are known in some places by a different name? That’s the case locally with this plant, which is properly called ironweed. Everyone in this area calls it butterfly weed or sometimes wild butterfly weed to differentiate it from the kind you can buy in garden centers. I think butterfly weed is the better name—more descriptive.

This year, so far, is not shaping up as a great butterfly year here at the cabin. Oh, I’ve seen some—mostly tiger swallowtails, with the odd great spangled fritillary thrown in. I haven’t seen many, though, and not nearly in the numbers I think of as “normal.”

This year is seeming to be odd in other ways, too. I’ve heard more people say they’ve never had so many birds at a summer feeder as they do this year. It’s as though the birds aren’t finding the natural food they should. And the species that show up at the feeders are different than usual too—red-winged blackbirds and grackles.

Deer also seem to be behaving in untypically, as well. They are being seen regularly in daylight, almost as much as you’d see at nightfall during the rutting season. It’s not uncommon for deer to exit the woods when the black flies or sweat bees are bad, but this year they aren’t bad. I’m in the woods every day and haven’t been bothered by either of those. And truthfully, the deer aren’t leaving the woods stamping, shaking their heads and acting as though the flies are bothering them. They are just moving around.

The animals do seem to be behaving as though the natural food is lacking, but I can’t say that looks obvious as a reason either. If we were having drought, I’d assume that was the cause. If anything the vegetation is more lush than usual because the woods have seen a lot of rain, which I would have thought would produce more food rather than less of it. So I’m a bit stumped as to what might be going on.

For now, the oddities don’t seem extreme or dangerous, just odd. I’ll keep my eyes open and see how it goes.


Kay said...

Interesting observations (and ruminations!). I often wonder about the habits of deer across the river from us. Sometimes they can be seen daily along the river bank and sometimes we seldom see them. When the ticks are really bad, we've seen Groove-billed Anis riding their antlers and eating ticks (yuck!).
I like your blog and will return!

Woodswalker said...

Up here in northern NY, where Ironweed looks more like some kind of thistle, we have yet another name for your pictured plant: Japanese Spirea. As we well know, common names sure vary from place to place.

Carolyn H said...

Kay: Welcome! I hope to get back to south TX sooner rather than later. I've never seen a groove-billed ani riding a deer's antlers. Up here, not even the local blackbirds ride deer antlers. I'd love to see a photo of that!

Carolyn H.

Carolyn H said...

Woodswalker: your term of Japanese spirea isn't one I ever remember hearing. Sometimes I've at least heard of the other common name (as in "we call it soda, but I know you call it pop"), but Japanese spirea doesn't even register on that meter. Thanks for adding another name to the list!

Carolyn H