Sunday, July 14, 2013

Phenology: Fireflies and Rain

Time for a phenology post? Weather: very wet. I've not noticed the heat as much this year as in other years--daytime highs mostly in the eighties, overnight lows around 65 or 70--but the humidity seems to be stuck between 90 and 100%. If you look outside and don't see rain actually falling, you can see steam rising back into the air.

Bad as this weather is for those of us who don't have gills, Peter Flom reminds us that it's worse in the cities...

Around the Cat Sanctuary, what's blooming abundantly are foxgloves (like the irises this spring, very tall, colorful blossom spikes), purple sage, red clover, and fleabane daisies. Dayflowers have only started to bloom. Other wildflowers I'm seeing in the neighborhood are crown vetch (I'm not seeing much native vetch), white clover, oxeye daisies, mimosas, and Black-Eyed Susan. As discussed in other summers, the foxgloves, dayflowers, and crown vetch are not native but have become naturalized. So have two "Rose of Sharon" hibiscus bushes in the Cat Sanctuary's front yard, the white one of which started blooming yesterday.

To my surprise, some raspberries did manage to turn red before they mildewed. Unfortunately they were the kind that turn blackish-purple when they're fit to eat. The Cat Sanctuary is located in an orchard but we're having to buy our fruit in town this year.

This is also the season for cultivated flowers, of course, and special mention should be made of the Fourth of July flower baskets in which one local gardener persuaded bright red, white, and dark indigo-blue flowers to bloom abundantly.

A second generation of Tiger Swallowtail butterflies seems to be surviving the wet weather pretty well. Moths? I don't think I've seen even one Tulip Tree Beauty yet this year; have seen a very small selection of tiger moths (Arctiids), inchworm moths (Geometrids), and nuisance moths (Noctuids).

On the other hand I've never seen so many fireflies. They started flying in April and are still flying now. There are different species of fireflies; they look pretty much alike to humans but aren't able to crossbreed. In places where more than one species is common, they recognize each other by the different patterns in which they flash their lights. (We read that some female fireflies can mimic the flash patterns of a different species in order to lure males with whom they can't mate into reach when they're hungry. Many animals believe in population control for other species.) This is the first time I've noticed a variety of flash patterns around the Cat Sanctuary. Some nights there have been enough fireflies in the woods to allow a person to see the road on a moonless night.