The recent hot, wet weather is showing its effects here in the Kickapoo River Valley. The marsh grass along the river has grown tall and lush green, and now hides the nests of the Red-winged blackbirds. Light green stems of cow parsnip are showing flowery white tops the size of dinner plates. Against the side of a small knoll near the creek stands a patch of lavender phlox. The dark green grass complements the light purple flowers perfectly.
The blackberry thicket near the woods' edge displays what looks like a million white blossoms. Looks like it's going to be a good year for berry picking! Some of the other plants putting out flowers now include the White campion, Canada anemone, White prairie daisies, Wild parsnip, Garlic mustard (an invasive species here, but prolific and pretty), Mock orange, Spiderwort, and many others. Now blooming in the flower gardens are Irises, Peonies, Violas, Pansies, Snapdragons, Impatiens, Orange honeysuckle vine, and Blue indigo.
The insects are also enjoying a heyday due to the change in weather. There are so many flowers in bloom that if you are a local bug you have plenty to do. One of my favorite insects showed up this week: the lightning bug, or firefly. Every evening they dance like tiny fairies over the canary grass by the spring pond. Another fun insect to watch in the evenings is the hawk moth. These little moths are also known as "Hummingbird moths" because of the way they hover at each flower bloom as they feed on the nectar. Other insects are less welcome, like deer flies and black flies. These two have been nuisances since the hot, humid weather arrived.
The real puzzling question is, where are the butterflies? I've seen a few yellow Swallowtails, a couple of Monarchs, a few Morning cloaks and some Skipers, but not many butterflies overall. Last summer butterflies were few and far between, and I hope they return in larger numbers this year.
The Black locust trees on the east side of my house are in full bloom. The beauty of these trees tickles all of your senses at once. For starters, the trees are completely covered with drooping bunches of creamy white flowers, which the narrow tree leaves aren't yet big enough to hide. The sweet perfume from these blossoms drifts to me while I work in the garden nearby. Twenty yards from the trees, I can still hear the humming from the tiny wings of thousands of honeybees and Bumblebees. Bee music is a special benefit of the locust trees. (As is the delicious honey they produce from black locust nectar!)
From a sensory perspective, there is one bad point about the Black locust that sometimes outweighs the good points—especially if you are walking nearby with bare feet. Every branch is covered with quarter-inch thorns. For this reason, they aren't really the kind of tree you want to plant in the middle of the yard if you like go barefoot.
Under the leaves of the strawberry plants, a young robin is hiding. He waits patiently for one of his parents to bring him a fat worm or some other tasty tidbit. The young bird can fly a little bit, just short distances to new hiding places. It's a cautious time when young birds are just getting their wings. Many are caught and eaten by cats, who think that baby birds are a real treat. If you have a cat that you let outside, please be aware of this and take steps, as a lover of nature, to safeguard baby birds.
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