Monday, July 27, 2015

Phenology with Stealth Nag: Ivy Wants My Water

Well, this is the South, and it's July, so what did you expect? Even in the hills above Gate City, Virginia, without the local warming effect, temperatures have peaked around 90 degrees. People in Kingsport, Tennessee, haven't complained of local warming sending their temperatures over 100 yet, but they've certainly gone further past the 90-degree mark, and stayed there much longer, every day. At least overnight lows have been dropping back to around 70 degrees, which would be comfortable if the humidity weren't so heavy. The air feels thick. Everything smells musty, and feels damp to the touch.

As regular readers know, I always reuse soda bottles and bottled-water bottles at least twice. First I refill them with drinking water, then I refill them with cleaning water. One day this weekend I had brought in some bottles filled with drinking water. I sat down on the front porch. My cat Ivy sat down on my knee. I petted her and told her what a precious pretty kitty she is, and she purred, and I still felt tired. It occurred to me that drinking one of those bottles of water might help me recover the energy to stand up and take the bottles into the kitchen.

Ivy sniffed at the bottle when I opened it, and then began to meow. "May I have some?"

"It's only plain old water, Ivy." The cats usually go down to the spring branch for water, and ignore water I've put out in dishes in the mud room when we've had little kittens in there.

"Meow? Meow?" Ivy knew it was only plain old water, and she wanted some.

"Is it too hot to walk fifteen yards?" Some empty tins the cats had licked clean were in a bag for recycling in the yard. I poured one or two ounces of water into an empty tin.

"Purr. Purr!" Ivy started lapping up the water. I sat down again and took another sip from the bottle.

Irene and the kittens came out from the cellar. The cellar stays close to earth temperature and is where the cats usually go in extreme weather. "What are you purring about, Ivy? Share it! Share it!"

To my surprise, Ivy growled and glared at them. "This is my special treat the human gave to me." Ivy is the smallest adult cat; once in a while she feels a need to assert herself.

"Oh for pity's sake." I poured a couple more ounces of water into another tin. Irene and the kittens tasted it but didn't seem especially thirsty. Ivy didn't drink all the water I'd poured out for her, either. I expected the cats would leave it to evaporate; they usually like fresh running water.

Later in the evening, though, Heather came in from hunting with nothing to share. She seemed tired and thirsty, and approached the tins of water. Ivy growled at her, too. I went out and found Ivy defending the tin that was her special treat...I think she even drank all of that portion of water herself.

Sharing food is the main way all animals show friendship. Most of the time, in my cats' minds the category of food hasn't seemed to include water. In extreme weather, apparently, it does.

That was the nag for all pet owners. Now the rest of the phenology report:

Flowers: Lots of clover, Queen Anne's Lace, chicory. A few daisies are still blooming. Mimosa and crepe myrtle, mostly cultivated in people's yards. The "Rose of Sharon" hibiscus, H. syriacus, is blooming well wherever it's been planted and in at least one place where it's not.

Butterflies: Apparently thriving on this weather; I'm seeing lots of all the usual kinds: Spring Azures, which are actually more of a periwinkle blue than azure, and fly from spring through fall; Wood Nymphs (little brown ones); Sulphurs; Cabbage Whites; fritillaries; Silver-Spotted Skippers; lots of Tiger Swallowtails, a few Zebra Swallowtails, and occasionally the species most of the world calls a Black Swallowtail; and a Red Admiral. I have yet to see a Monarch or Mourning Cloak this year.

Moths: All our local species of Tiger Moths seem to have been decimated this year. I've seen only one Tiger Moth--dead--in Duffield. The Geometrid species that live in the black walnut tree and have been using my computer screen as a nightclub continue to be a nuisance. A Peach Borer moth, the kind that hold their very narrow wings in a way that suggests giant mosquitoes more than ordinary moths, but have mothlike heads, got into the Cat Sanctuary one night; this was a surprise since I didn't think there was a peach tree left in the neighborhood. (We used to have peach trees in the orchard, but they never bore fruit and didn't live long.) I've seen relatively few of the dapper little Desmia moths that live on wild or domestic grape leaves, but think I've seen one or two of each of our three species this year.

Birds: Even the crows haven't been flying or singing (well, in the case of crows, squawking) this weekend. It's just too hot! In Gate City, however, one species remains active...those blasted pigeons that roost on the courthouse dome. I saw a flock of them flying above town this morning.

Fungi: Apart from the nuisance molds that thrive in this kind of weather, Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, Mucor, Penicillium, Cladosporium, and "I don't care what it is--just kill it!"...I've seen one mushroom that was new to me. Everybody has seen the big, tan or orange, saucer-shaped kind of mushroom that occasionally pop up in the woods in late summer...Wikipedia says they're species in the genus Lactarius, one of the most common mushrooms in North America. Most of them aren't fit to eat (they don't look very appetizing) and may stain your clothes. This weekend, though, I saw a blue one. Same size and shape as an orange specimen growing about twenty yards away (maybe six inches high, saucerlike tops about the size of the palm of my hand), but the color shaded from pearly white to baby-blue. It almost glowed in the woods. Wikipedia says there's a species of Lactarius that are normally pale grey. I'd never seen one before.