Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Phenology: Box Turtle Update

Today's phenology post (saving the best for last) begins with Weather. A tornado watch was in effect yesterday. As usual, we had no tornadoes, but intense thunderstorms spinning off the "edge." Gusty winds, lots of thunder and lightning, pouring rain.

I walked out after one storm, then tried to walk back before the next one. No such luck. I'd just passed the Dairy Queen on Lynn Garden Drive when rain started to fall. Since I wasn't hungry I tried waiting outside the door of the Dairy Queen, which faces northwest. The wind was blowing from the northwest, so when the rain really began to pour I went into the Dairy Queen. Life has a way of challenging humans' plans and policy statements. Hours after telling somebody that I'm averse to paying for fast food because it's never a good frugal bargain, I decided that a little fast food would be cheaper than a new cell phone, and was glad I had a little money to waste. DQ is an oldfashioned ice cream shop (and grill) that still blends up individual servings of ice cream with a flavoring of your choice. I ordered a Blizzard with Reese's Cups. Bad idea--those things are whirled in a blender that also processes Oreos, so they're not fully gluten-free. Also, operating on the assumption that all fast-food restaurants label sizes "small, medium, large, and extra-large," I looked at the Blizzard cups and asked for the "large," which looked like the amount of ice cream a person can eat during a thunderstorm; since Dairy Queen sizes include "mini" I got the sharing size. This was a little over half the size of a carton of peanut-butter-cup ice cream from the supermarket and, with Tennessee sales tax, cost almost twice as much as I'm usually willing to pay for the carton. That said, I will say that the Blizzard was beyond question the best peanut-butter-cup ice cream I've ever eaten, arguably worth paying three times as much for. And the restaurant was very clean, and the employees were polite. And I only found one chunk of cookie, which I think I spit out in time that I shouldn't be seriously sick...we shall see. Celiacs beware. Some celiacs' reactions to smaller traces of wheat are more intense than mine. But it was scrumptious ice cream.

Rain continued well into the night. The storms are expected to stop today; when I left home this morning the sun was trying to come out, and beginning to blaze and beat down.

On to the flowers...today, alongside Route 23, I saw lots of chicory, some plants completely spent but many more just budding. Chicory blossoms fade with age, with old, spent flowers turning pallid pink, and early in the morning new buds can be almost navy blue. Red clover, crown vetch (pink flowers that form round pink clumps like coronets), native vetch (white or yellow flowers that form little spikes), Queen Anne's Lace, many daisies.

And I saw honeysuckle--the mostly less desirable kind, Lonicera japonica, that (like kudzu and crown vetch) helps hold down the steep bluffs formed by cutting and blasting when this highway was built. Honeysuckle usually blooms about the same time privet does; these vines' delayed blooming, probably a reaction to the Big Freeze, makes me feel a little better about not having the heart to prune my privet, which has yet to bloom.

The dayflowers are blooming, though, at the Cat Sanctuary. (They, too, normally start blooming in late May.) Since learning that I have two distinct kinds I've been trying to encourage the native ones at the imports' expense...but the imports are, to most people's eyes, slightly prettier, and they bloomed first. I'm not digging them up.

The only moth I saw this morning was another of those dull mid-size Geometrids that live in the black walnut tree and have started partying in my office room. After getting indoors, it was not slowed down by the rain at all and apparently had a good time adding its subtle scent to the scent-of-its-kind on my home computer. It made sure to tag me too; that was what woke me up this morning.

On Route 23 I saw a few dead frogs. Local slang for a flash flood is "a frog-strangler." Apparently that was what last night's rain was. One of the frogs hadn't been crushed at all, but was lying flat on its back, sprawled out, in what had already become a very shallow puddle.

But on Route 23 what I was really looking for was evidence of last week's box turtles. I saw scattered fragments of a box turtle, about a mile and a half west of where I'd tried to dissuade the male box turtle from crossing the highway last week. The colors were similar, the fragments too small to make a pattern identifiable...I remember having seen fragments of shell at that point before I saw the two living turtles last week, though, so the fragments seem more likely to have come from a different turtle, rather than the tough-guy turtle I tried to rescue. I didn't get far enough on foot to be sure that neither of last week's turtles had been run over, though, before accepting a lift from a neighbor. All I can positively say is that we didn't pass any live turtles in the road.