Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Summer fog

Summer is here and with it comes heat, humidity and dense fog in the mornings. I am not a summer person and prefer to move slowly under cover of shade as much as possible.

I am already thinking ahead to fall and watching the poison ivy turn red with some glee. Soon, I think, soon the temperature will be cooler and nights chilly.  But truly, in the meantime, summer seems interminable, and the idea of continued hot weather through sometime next week feels like forever.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A day at camp

Walking down Roundtop to Beaver Creek
I haven’t posted much about my Thursday adventure camp sessions this year, and now that I only have a few more weeks of camp, I guess I’d better not wait. 
Yesterday the weather was outstanding—perfect temperature, not a cloud to be found and low humidity. I think it’s the only day this summer when I could say that.  So the walk down Roundtop Mtn. to Beaver Creek was especially nice.

The kids caught a huge number of crayfish yesterday. This photo was taken sometime during the first group of kids and doesn’t begin to show the magnitude of the day's catch.  They also caught about a dozen minnows and assorted water skippers, which for some reason are always a favorite of a subset of young campers.  Personally, I don’t see the attraction, but I don’t complain about anything outdoorsy that interests them.  

I also found this beetle, which was a bit over 1” long. I think it may be a broad-necked root borer but I’m not a bug person, so if anyone knows for sure, please correct me.  If it is that bug, the forest habitat is certainly right, and I believe it is a female, which is substantially larger than the male.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Brown-eyes susan

Are you seeing more American goldfinch lately? Goldfinch are on the move, often entire family groups.  Goldfinch breed much later than most other birds, waiting until the milkweed and thistle produce seeds.  It’s often early July until the young birds hatch, but they make up for it by being ready to fly within 9-10 days.  Tthe young birds typically stay with the parent birds for at least several more weeks, and all of them flit around together in search of seeds.   That’s the point where the birds are right now in my area.  I see or hear them every day, usually in groups of three or five, rarely more.

Another sign of the progressing season is that for a few minutes I actually considered wearing my headlamp this morning when I walked the dogs.  The morning was crystal clear, not a cloud to be found, and for the once the humidity was low.  So I can’t blame an overcast sky for the near-darkness in which I found myself.  It was entirely the result of the shortening hours of daylight.  I believe I can make it through this week without my headlamp, but I suspect next week will be a different story.  This morning, I simply slowed my exit from the cabin by a minute or so and waited another minute for my eyes to adjust, and we were on our way.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hot, hot, hot

Summer’s heat and humidity is making up for lost time.  After a cool and rainy June and early July, the weather is now hotter and more humid than the hottest day of August.  I mind the humidity at least as much as the heat. To me it feels as though I am breathing water and that’s not a good feeling. So I only venture outside when needed or in the early and later part of the day.

I have finished constructing a new chicken pen, and “the girls” spent their first night in it last evening. A few of them were very confused and kept trying to enter the old pen, but eventually they all figured it out.  My broody hen is still firmly plopped atop her eggs.  Not all of the eggs are actually hers, but if she wants to brood eggs laid by her sisters, I have no objection.  It will be another 10-11 days before her incubation period is complete.  I hope I get a few chicks from her, and I hope they aren’t all roosters, though I would be happy with one new rooster. Doodle, my current rooster, is now an elderly gentleman and can’t have more than another winter or maybe two in him.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Ironweed after rain
My broody hen is so far sticking to her eggs, though she needs to remain diligent for just over two more weeks before any chicks will hatch.  That leaves me just two weekends to get that new chicken run put together if I want her in a secure place to raise chicks, assuming she actually hatches any.

We have already had one scare in this non-secure area where she is determined to nest.  Something came into her space around 10:30 the other night, sending her squawking and away from the nest.  I rushed outside, headlamp in hand, to find her stuck in a corner with her head through a hole in the chain link fence.  She was upset but unhurt and the eggs were undamaged. I saw and heard nothing in the woods. I don’t think her “attacker” was a raccoon, as she and her eggs were not hurt.  I suspect one of the local cats may have just wanted to sleep in the straw (as they do when there are no eggs there).  It’s possible it was something else, but I found no sign of any marauder, just one scared but undamaged hen. Fortunately, she returned to her eggs quickly.  And only two more weeks to go.

Monday, July 13, 2015


Queen Anne's lace
Midsummer is especially lush on Roundtop this year, due the near unending rain.  This past weekend was the first in a month where it didn’t rain and that respite, while it will be short-lived, was much appreciated.  The clear weather allowed me to get some outside work done, but I’m afraid I will never catch up at this rate.

Wildflowers are certainly enjoying the wet summer. They are profuse nearly everywhere I look. I hope the local bees are populous enough to properly pollinate them. I do see some bees, if not nearly the numbers I should be seeing.  Colony collapse disorder apparently took an especially harsh toll last winter and this spring, with losses running about 42% of all colonies.  This comes after a year or so when the losses didn’t appear to be getting any worse, and beekeepers were very cautiously optimistic they could learn to deal with it. So much for that hope, I’m afraid.  This year I can probably count the number of bees I’ve seen on two hands.  That’s more than a little scary.

Butterflies, which also perform pollination duties, seem to be around in normal numbers, so that might help.  Butterflies are far less efficient than bees at pollinating, but at least it’s something. The difference is that butterflies have longer legs than bees, which holds them away from pollen. Bees are built for pollinating and can capture pollen pretty much with their entire bodies.  And of course, bees are busy little things, while butterflies flit prettily and slowly from flower to flower.  One thing butterflies can do that bees can’t is see the color red, so they are very effective pollinators of red flowers.  Butterflies prefer larger flowers with flat or broad surfaces so they can more easily land. A few moths, such as the hummingbird moth, also pollinate but how many of those do you see around?

I’ve been talking about wildflowers and how they are affected by a lack of bees, but that’s really only a side issue.  More than 80 different farm crops in the U.S. depend on pollination.  This covers all of the berry crops as well as apples, cherries, plums, avocados and all the almonds.  The list goes on to cover dozens of food crops. I look for bees every day when I’m out in the woods, but so far there’s little joy in reporting the number that I see.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer storm

Beaver Creek before the kids arrived
For a few days at least, the nasty, goopy weather that has characterized summer 2015 is gone.  The weather was still goopy during adventure camp down at Beaver Creek yesterday, but the kids all finished their critter-catching sessions and got back up the mountain before the storm hit.

The severe summer storm brought down trees, took out power and littered the yards and roads with various-sized limbs and branches.  A tornado took out an elementary school near Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and though the principal was in the school at the time, she wasn’t hurt.  It’s possibly a mark of how odd this summer is that it took a storm like that to bring about some normal summer weather.  So I will enjoy the weather for a few days before the goop returns.  Perhaps I’ll even have time to put together a new chicken run for the girls, a project hampered by the last three rainy weekends.

I have a broody hen, something of a rarity in Rhode Island Reds, who are notoriously poor mothers.  She is, naturally, brooding where I don’t want her to brood. I tried moving her and the eggs, which didn’t sit well with her at all. She returned to her original spot within an hour, so I gave in and returned the eggs to her.  They were still warm, so I hope all is well there.  If I’m going to have a broody hen, I hope to get some chicks out of it.  And if she’s going to have chicks, then I really need to get that new run built.  Of course, Miss Broody may well decide that motherhood is not for her and give up before the 21-day hatch time is over. I’m also not sure she’s turning her eggs, as she should be, but she sure has plunked herself solidly in that one spot. There’s a long way to go before any hatching might occur.  And even then some hens kill the chicks that hatch, which is not only should I not count the chicks before they hatch, but I’d better not count them afterwards, either.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

July, a repeat of June


The strange June pattern of a soaking rain every other day or so is continuing into July at Roundtop.  Even when it’s not raining, it’s foggy and overcast, with hardly any sun or even a blue sky.  Looking ahead in the forecast only shows more of the same into mid-month at least.

One thing I have noticed that is not the norm and that appears to be caused by the odd weather is that poison ivy is everywhere.  This nasty plant apparently thrives in the wet weather.  The patches I find are larger than ever before, and I’m seeing the plant in more places than ever, too.  Just one more unhappy result from the atypical weather this summer.

The first batch of spring babies have apparently left the nests.  I say this because the male wood thrush and ovenbirds are singing again after a month or so of silence.  The silence means nesting is going on, and the return to singing means they are likely looking to start a second brood—or at least thinking about it.  For me, the return of the wood thrush song, especially, is welcome.  I love to hear that sweet song fill the forest, though I don’t often see the birds.  Their singing is a lovely summer sound that lasts not long enough for me.  And I am fortunate in that I hear the sound more than most people.  The birds are common here, and I heard them virtually every day they sing.  Even with that, I’d be happy to have the singing be heard constantly until the leaves fall.