Saturday, July 25, 2009

Animals in the Forest

I wonder where and how animals die. Skulls are rare finds in the forest. By chance, my path crossed several skeletons on July 10th. Old age, not ready to fledge, a meal for an owl or hawk, broadhead just off target.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Green World

Wood pewee in the green world

July is the long blink between June and August. There are a hundred reasons why this is not true:

Fledglings are becoming strong fliers, like the red bellied woodpecker bedecked in dusty grey baby bird feathers who made short looping flights from the snag and back. From the snag and back, practicing on steadily stronger wings.

Black cohosh fills the air with a pungent smell from its wick of flowers.

Fireflies announce a summer night with repeating patterns. Dash dash dash. Swoop. Swoop. Lady fireflies, glowworms or firefly predators, whichever they may be, blink on and off like lighthouses in the grass.

Time is punctuated by different types of itches. A mosquito bites my arm, a gnat my leg. Lawn grass irritates the ankle, squash the wrist. No-see-ums on my shoulder and a sunburn on my neck.

The evening song of the woodthrush is replaced by the call of the wood pewee. Peee ah weeeee. Peee ah weeeee.

The garden starts running downhill fast, outpacing our appetites suppressed by New Jersey heat and humidity. We want only sweet berries, but so do the mockingbird babies. Mockingbird parents have more time to pick the raspberries than we do. Even so, the pantry is filling up - dilly beans and pickled beets, garlic and turnips - just no raspberry jam.

Spider children

So why do I call July the long blink?

The flowering plants are lulled by the afternoon heat, and so am I. I have forgotten about bud break and leaf out. I'm reminded of spring's flowering only when I see a bloodroot leaf peak from behind an ash seedling. The mid-summer world is absolutely green. Thoughts of winter tickle my mind - splitting firewood and juncoes and birdseed.

The flowering plants have mostly paused, but the next flush is upon us.

Insect on black cohosh flowers

Sunday, July 12, 2009


I often walk in barrens on a hot, sunny day - it just happens that way. The rain breaks or the forest opens and I am in the barrens. The mosquitoes abandon chase. Oaks a hundred of years old drink the water from cracks in the stones and from the thin leaf litter.

Sheep laurel tucks pollen laden stamens into pink petals. A bee's landing will eject the stamens, she will collect the treasure. She departs, and the stamens bend back into place awaiting another pollinator.

A towhee sings from atop a chestnut oak. Common yellow throats call from the blueberry thicket. A scarlet tanager pair visit the barrens briefly and return to the forest.

All photographs: Moosic Mountain, Pennsylvania