Lately I've been hearing stories from people who have been watching swallows and chimney swifts where they live. It won't be long before the young nestlings will be flying and learning how to catch insects on the wing. Everyone who is lucky enough to have these cheery little acrobats of the skies is grateful for the insect control. The adults are extra busy now, with so many little mouths to feed—so catching mosquitoes, flies and moths keeps them on the wing most of the day.
The little fork-tailed Barn swallows may build their half shell mud nests in an outbuilding that they fly in and out of. Maybe they will raise their family in a nest under the eaves of the house or in the barn if there's a door or window left open.
The swallows' soft twittering calls as they fly about the yard is usually a relaxing sound, but they can be very excited if there is a cat around!
The Tree swallows are about the same size as the Barn and Bank swallows. Tree swallows prefer to nest in a small cavity in a tree, or a Blue bird house. The Bank swallow, on the other hand, builds a bottle-shaped mud nest that is affixed to a seam under a nearby bridge or under the eve of an outbuilding, always in a shady place.
The insides of old brick chimneys are the favorite place for the Chimney swifts to affix their little mud and stick nests. The tiny swifts are among the fastest fliers in the bird world, and appear to have no tails because they are so small. These little expert bug catchers are most often seen in towns and cities where there are lots of chimneys to choose from.
Spotted white-tailed deer fawns have tripled in size in the first month of their lives, and are very curious about the new world they live in. Yesterday I watched one who wanted to play with a woodchuck in the back yard, but old Woody didn't feel much like playing and just ignored the frisky fawn.
I'm noticing around that some of the county and township road crews are late in mowing the road side, which is causing a problem with invasive plants. If they wait to mow until the noxious weeds have gone to seed, the mower blades spread seed along the road and these invasive plants spread quickly across the landscape. Prickly thistles are becoming more of a problem, with Bull, Scotch, and Nodding thistles popping up everywhere. Garlic mustard plants are spreading out of control and crowding out the native plants that normally would be there. By far, though, the worst noxious weed problem I've witnessed here in the past decade is the epidemic spread of wild poison parsnip. Where the summer landscape was once lush and green, you can now see acres of tall, bright yellow flowerheads. The plants grow very close together and each plant can grow six feet tall by the second year. I can't argue that a yellow blanket of flowers doesn't look pretty along the road, but there is much danger in its beauty. Brushing bare skin across a flower top will almost certainly raise some very nasty blisters that can scar like a burn.
Another discouraging thought is that the seeds may lie dormant in the ground for 6 to 8 years before sprouting. Trying to control the poison parsnips will be a long term battle. It breaks my heart to see what remains of the open grasslands being gobbled up by this yellow-topped invader. The diversity of the native grassland is made up of many species of plants, birds, animals and insect, all of whom are running out of places to live. The parsnip is crowding the habitat of many other species, as well as making the land very dangerous to walk through this time of year.
It's good to be alive and enjoying another summer, but I always keep my eye on the rapid encroachment of the most invasive species of all, us humans!
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