The summer weather has arrived and I welcome the heat, but 90 degrees and humid on Wednesday may have been more than I asked for. It was the kind of day that creates an insect hatch, and the black flies and deer flies made it hard to do any garden work.
My morning walk was full of new flower surprises, and I paused often to take pictures. Thereís something extra bright in the white faces of the Shasta daisies. They clash so beautifully with the green grass around them. A few of them brighten up the vase on my kitchen table.
The next pretty flowers I came to were the yellow tops of Golden Alexanders. Growing two and a half to three feet tall, they peek out from the tall green grass in the meadow. Itís sometimes hard to believe that such pretty flowers lay asleep under the snow-covered ground only a few months ago. Watching the Earth come alive through the spring and summer really is one of Natureís finest shows.
At the shady edge of the woods I found the creamy white flower heads of False Solomonís Seal and I noticed the honeybees have found them, too. A little Song sparrow sang to me from a branch above my head. Itís always an extra treat to see pretty birds and pretty flowers together. A little House wren let me know I was standing too close to his nest that had been built inside a nearby bluebird house. Time to move on.
Another wren family was using the birdhouse just outside my back door. They are used to me coming and going and donít raise such a fuss when Iím around. In fact, one of the little wrens followed me into the screened porch one day. It took only a few seconds to catch and release him outside, where he then scolded me with the loudest wren chatter he could muster. Since then, he chatters every time he sees me. Anything but shy, these tiny birds are as bold as an eagle and can sing all day long. What would summer be without the gurgling songs of the House wrens? Of the hundreds of birdhouses Iíve put out in my life, they were used most often by House wrens by a wide margin.
Sunday I was invited to take a walk down Natureís trail with my good friend, Carol, who lives in a beautiful valley along the West Branch of the Kickapoo River just upstream of me. The river here is a little smaller and shallower than the Kickapooís main stem. The river sparkles in the sunlight as the water dances over the lime rock river bottom. One of Carolís favorite things to do on a summer day is walk in the creek that flows by her house. She said thereís nothing like getting your feet wet in a cool stream. It really makes you feel alive. I was enjoying our walk together and we stopped to look at some wildflowers. There were some flowers that werenít all that common in the area. I noticed two nice patches of Golden ragwort right next to the riverbank. I wondered if their seed had been washed down stream in a flood. I suspect there are more of these pretty yellow daisies up stream, which is a good reason to take another walk.
There was a good amount of Virginia waterleaf along Carolís stream, and the bees were taking advantage of the lovely lavender flowers. These flowers remind me of another wildflower that looks similar and attracts bees, wild bergamot or bee balm. A large Jack-in-the-Pulpit caught my eye and posed for a few pictures, too pretty to pass by. If beauty was intended to get your attention, the Jack-in-the-Pulpit certainly gets it.
I stayed close to the river as I walked slowly behind Carol who was leading the way. The Barn swallows and Tree swallows soared over our heads and a dragonflyís wings glimmered in the sunlight. Bright orange-red columbines dotted the riverbank and made me feel like I was walking in a beautiful garden. I had to remind myself that the best walks are those taken with somebody. To share Natureís wonders is very special.
The tracks in the wet sand near the riverís edge were fun to examine. I could see where two raccoons had patrolled the stream the night before. A turkey may have come down for a drink that morning and left her tracks in the wet sand. A Great Blue heron had been fishing for minnows and left his very large prints. A doe had led her fawn down to the stream for a drink; their tracks were very close together. The track left by the tiny fawn wasnít much bigger than a penny.
The stream led to the river and we continued our walk along the riverbank. A Red-tailed hawk soared overhead, watching us. Carol said there was an eagleís nest nearby, but we werenít lucky enough to see them today. A frisky Kingfisher flew right past us as he zipped upriver; he went by so fast we nearly missed him.
It was a great afternoon, and one of the best parts is the good conversation at the end of the day. So, go for a walk with a friend. You wonít regret it. I promise.
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