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Midsummer Wanderings

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Midsummer Wanderings

Here we are at the midpoint of the summer. Every day brings its adventures, comedies, and trials. It has been a warm, dry summer, and great for the garden. In my summer photo collage here you can see (top row, left to right) a black-eyed susan, a viceroy, an unidentified caterpillar, and a comma anglewing. The bottom row has a northern pearly eye satyr, a rainbow over my trees, and the same anglewing from the top. Insets are a ripe wild blueberry and an unidentified moth asleep in an evening primrose blossom.

The phoebes have raised a second crop in the nest under the porch eaves. The wren family grew and flew, and now we have another wren brood in the old birdhouse on the garage. One day I watched an oriole chase a crow all the way from the back of our property to the woods across the road. I also saw the robin family harrying a broad-winged hawk out of the yard. They had quite a shouting match in the silver maple before the hawk finally took off.

The midsummer flowers are everywhere: evening primrose, all the cinquefoils and hawkweeds, St. Johnswort, red, white and yellow clover, black-eyed susans, daisies and pearly everlastings. The blueberries and raspberries are ripe. First the wild ones are ready to pick, and after that the “tame” varieties. We are edging toward August, too, with the very first goldenrod and white asters beginning to bloom.

We have had crowds of cedar waxwings around the yard quite a bit recently. They always show up when the mulberries are ripe. This year they came around for the shadbush berries, too. Cedar waxwings are such sleek, elegant birds. They always seem like they are on vacation. They don’t nest around here, so I never see them doing the hard work of raising a family. They show up in large numbers and spend all their time flitting around eating fruit and conversing with each other in soft, whispery voices.

A skunk got past my electric fence one night this week and went on a grub-raid in the garden by the house. It looked like someone had rototilled a large section of what I had just planted the week before. I saw him in the backyard a couple of days later and gave him what for. I do appreciate his efforts at grub control but I don’t appreciate his overturning my basil and cabbage plants to do it. He just looked at me and then hustled off into the underbrush. A black and white skunk in an all-green landscape is a startling sight, really. I guess he feels no need of camouflage.

The real master of camouflage is the white-tailed deer. I was picking wild blueberries down the meadow last week when I was startled by the noise of someone large moving around in the woods to my left. I looked, but could not see who it was. Then I looked right, and standing just about fifteen feet away from me was a very small fawn, still wearing his spots. He was standing quietly, swiveling his big ears at me. We looked at each other for several minutes before he turned and bounded off down the meadow. At that point his mother, who was the one I had first heard, also took off toward the south. I guess I must have disturbed their afternoon nap.

This year’s groundhog family has one particularly adventurous young soul who is finding his groundhogly fulfillment in climbing trees. I have seen him ten or fifteen feet off the ground in the mulberry tree on several occasions, eating the mulberry leaves. I actually got one quick photo of him on a fast descent from the tree (he saw me approaching with camera in hand). I wish I had gotten a snapshot of him the time I saw him dangling by his front paws from a branch, kicking the air wildly with his back paws as he struggled to get back up, but I wasn’t quick enough.

I have been on the trail of a number of butterflies this summer, and have managed to capture some of them on my camera, too. The early summer butterflies, like the tiger swallowtail, have disappeared now. They have been replace by viceroys, angle-wings (one sat on my toe for a while the other day), tortoise-shells, pearly eye satyrs, mourning cloaks, admirals, and others whose names I do not know yet. I found a beautiful pink and yellow moth snoozing quietly in an evening primrose blossom by my front door. He was there for several hours. He was so still, I wondered if he was alive. When I poked him, he stirred slightly but did not fly off.

Sometimes I see the grimmer side of summer when I am out, like a pile of feathers and a beak marking the place where someone snacked on a songbird, or the telltale shepherd’s crook that marks another white pine tree succumbing to the pine weevil. I found a dead mole on the driveway, and took some careful photos of him before I relegated him to the bushes. If I ever want to draw a mole, I will have a good set of reference photos to work from. But I love summer. I never get tired of going for walks and appreciating its beauties, and when I see the first goldenrod blooming I want to say, “No! No! Go back! Let it be midsummer for more than just this one brief moment.”