Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Photo-Enhanced Phenology Post for May 19, 2005

While offline for almost all of the past three weeks, I have snapped a few flower pictures. Not enough to show the real phenology story of how the local warming effect, apparently accentuated by last spring's weather phenomenon in which the first spring thaw seemed to stop right at the Virginia-Tennessee border, has put spring flowers in Gate City and Kingsport on two separate time schedules. My first yellow iris blossom at the Cat Sanctuary appeared the day after Mother's last yellow iris blossom in Kingsport faded.

These purple irises, or irides, bloomed in Weber City on the tenth of May. I noticed them more than the other irides because of the way the one dark iris appeared in the middle of all those paler-colored ones. Irides don't discriminate; over the years some varieties may crowd others out, but people who carefully arrange the roots they transplant can get all kinds of interesting color effects in any given spring.

This has been quite the year for buttercups. While the cell phone tends to distort long-range shots into a circular effect, this is a view of the bank of the drainage ditch along Route 23 in Virginia, also snapped last week, as a solid mass of buttercups. I've never seen so many of these flowers at one time before. They've popped up in places where buttercups don't usually grow, and, as shown here, they're blooming superabundantly in places where we usually see just a few buttercups.

It's also been a year for roses. This overloaded rosebush bloomed in Kingsport on the fifteenth of May. At the Cat Sanctuary, white roses are climbing up through the privet hedge, giving it white blooms and fragrance well before its time...must find time to cut'em back when the privet starts to bloom in its own right.

At the Cat Sanctuary, although I'm no longer seeing purple violets, there are still dozens of white violets in the not-a-lawn today...just above the mix of dayflowers and ladies-thumb in which the kittens were photographed. (These violets were photographed beside a back road.)

Hmm. Photographed in a soft light, these roadside flowers are showing up ghostly white on this computer. In real life they were pink. Pink wood sorrel has popped up in places where I'm not accustomed to see it, this year.

Rhododendrons and azaleas are passing their peak in Kingsport. A few fleabane daisies are still blooming, but by now, even in Virginia, oxeye daisies are taking over. 

Warning: the pretty, happy flower story ends here as we turn to the subject of birds and insects...

Last time I posted anything about phenology, I mentioned that the songbirds were back in full force, making the woods positively noisy. I'm still hearing birds along the back roads, but not nearly so many, since poison spraying occurred alongside the Southern Railroad that runs along parts of Route 58 and 23. The poison was further away from the Cat Sanctuary than last year...I've had what looked like temporary "colds" whenever the wind blew from that direction for most of May, and was really sick with symptoms of gluten poisoning one day after walking along Route 58 (when I hadn't eaten anything likely to have been contaminated with wheat). Both Heather and Ivy have been sick, possibly because they'd nibbled on dying birds like this poor little fellow, found beside Route 23. 

I found five birds in the first week of May...all protected species that would've subjected the railroad company to criminal charges if a company employee had shot the birds, or tried to keep them as pets in cages. 

And, insects? Over and above the decline in natural predation by birds, nuisance insect populations seem to be up this year, presumably due to the decline in natural predation last year. Frogs (all those spring peepers this spring!) have helped a good deal. So have wasps and hornets, and I'm delighted to say that while the Big Freeze seems to have dispersed my resident non-native Polistes dominulus paper wasps, the resident population of native P. fuscatus seems close to double what it was last year, and some P. carolinensis (red wasps) have also visited the Cat Sanctuary...

I have to admit that I don't feel as friendly toward P. carolinensis as I do toward P. fuscatus. Jesse Stuart famously claimed that red wasps are naturally peaceable animals--much as I've found our resident White-Faced Hornets to be. I've seen no reason to dispute this. I've never been chased by an overexcited red wasp, as I have been by dominulus, the little yellow-striped ones, and fuscatus, the blackish-brown ones. Thing is, when a red wasp does sting, it causes pain...like being stung by a hornet. I don't let Polistes carolinensis nest around the house.

But they certainly have found plenty of food. All the paper wasps and hornets have. Flies and little nuisance moths have been abundant. People were hoping that the Big Freeze had reduced populations of these annoying animals. They have been disappointed. 

Town-dwelling readers may be seeing more wasps and hornets. Try not to panic, please. Let these creatures take care of the nuisance insects. They will...if you can control that urge to try to poison them, too. 

And please help me lean on our legislators to get the poisons banned. There are ways to control weeds like poison ivy, and nuisance insects like mosquitoes, without poisoning flowers, songbirds, house pets...and ourselves. Yes, they may take a little more effort. Think of it as job creation. And e-mail me (via salolianigodagewi @ yahoo) if you want poison ivy uprooted in a place where you can't depend on goats.