Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What's With This Weather?

Tomorrow will be the third day in a row of temperatures in the high 80s/low 90s. The plant life around here is revved up to max: the irises have shot up over night, the lupin blossoms are a foot long, the buttercups in the field have made an early appearance, the poppies are moribund, and the spinach, alas, is bolting. When I went out to give the hens some extra water this evening, they were panting. If this continues, next thing you know we'll be putting camellias in our hair and talkin' Southern.

The humidity, praise be, has not yet risen along with the temperatures, and this keeps me just alive enough to look around and notice stuff. Which mostly has to do with bird life, these days. The teeny humming birds have been about, as have their rivals, the bumblebees. A wren is trying his/her darndest to make a home in the little house attached to our back wall. But he/she keeps trying to force stiff sticks crosswise into the hole. Are all wrens this way, or is mine mentally challenged?

The phoebe nest in the front porch is brimming over with babies. The parents reused last year's, for which I'm grateful, since phoebes building a new nest make a mess that even the sloppiest construction crew would be ashamed of. The phoeblets in their nest have a funny way of all facing in the same direction, looking vaguely military. I worry about the parents, hunting food from dawn to dusk in this heat.

For days I'd been concerned about the robin nesting in the very center of the lilac bush against the back of the house. It's not been a good season for lilacs--a late hard frost did in most of the blooms--so it's been time to do the annual pruning. But I wasn't going to touch the robin bush until those amazing blue eggs had hatched, and the babies had fledged. Every time I went to the vegetable garden, which is close to the lilac, the robin would fly out, with a big, grouse-like whirr, all the way into the woods. I hoped she would learn that we were harmless, for her children's sake, before the eggs hatched.

This morning, when I watered the tomato plants, the lilac bush was silent. I peered in, and the nest was gone. Only a couple of yellow strands of grass remained around the trunk where it had sat. The dogs sniffed and sniffed the ground below it. Something must have come in the night--possum, raccoon, fox, who knows what? I only hope the mother bird woke up and got away in time. I know from my hens how vulnerable sleeping birds are.

The heat came on so suddenly, that Wolfie shed all his coat at once. When I brushed him today in the shade of the big white ash, I could have disguised a good-sized Lab with his brushings. Even Bisou let go of a couple of handfuls of her red coat. I brushed Lexi, too, though her arthritic body makes her leery of the brush.

I'm going to go refill the water tub/bird bath as soon as I finish this, so even the small birds can reach the water without falling in. We'll try to hold on to the idea of spring through tomorrow's heat, and hope for a return of primavera before the weekend.

Wildlife P.S.: as I was about to hit "publish post" Wolfie started barking, whining and generally going crazy in the direction of the woods. I opened the screen door and he rushed out, and a minute later came prancing out from under the trees, tail high, ears back, and the first painted turtle of the season in his mouth. Wolfie is addicted to painted turtles--has been since his first spring. And painted turtles are addicted to our backyard. They come out of the woods, where there is a nice safe swamp for them, and cross our backyard and take off down the field to who knows where. Wolfie catches them, and if I don't get there fast enough, crunches them in his jaws the way you would crunch into an apple. And eats the contents. What I'm wondering is, how did he know, just now, that that turtle was in the woods?

7 comments :

  1. Apart from wanting to spit at all your lovely weather (I know, I'm getting payback for my summer posts in February), I'm fascinated by the painted turtles, and have googled them to learn more. (We are turtle-less here).

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  2. Mali, I forgot to say that the turtles that Wolfie crunches are a good eight inches long. The one I rescued last night was decorated in bright orange-red, and, luckily, was undamaged.

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  3. I went on a field trip with Violette to the Tinicum Wildlife Refuge last week, and we saw no fewer than: 3 huge snapping turtles, 4 box turtles, and 2 painted turtles. They were all hanging out by the walkway, laying eggs in holes they had dug at the edge of the forest, right in the path of hordes of elementary school children. Seemed counterintuitive to me, but I suppose the turtles know what they're doing.

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  4. Sonya, maybe these had been trained by the staff?

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  5. There are always baby snappers (alas, many dead baby snappers too) on the rail trail a mile or so out. It's getting to be time, I guess.

    I loved seeing the painted turtle in your yard last week, Lali. I do wish Wolfie could control his nature.

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  6. Knowing how keen GS's hearing is, I'm sure it's the cadence of their stroll out of the woods that gets his attention. They also could have a unique smell that we are clueless about too.

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  7. Indigo, he's pretty good about dropping them, once I tell him to. I just have to catch him in time.

    mrb, someone once told me that the reason dogs are so attracted to turtles is that the smell of their urine is very strong.

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