Mr. Woodchuck Comes to Lunch

moon phase Week of 08/05/2012 Good Days for Transplanting.

It was a beautiful July week with perfect summer days and nights. Mr Woodchuck Mr Woodchuck The week started hot and horribly humid, but a little rain brought some relief, and the temperatures were back in the 80s for the rest of the week. I got the lawn mower out for the first time in nearly a month and a half. The yard looks pretty good. Some of the brown spots where the grass went dormant are coming back, but there are some places where the grass is totally dead.

Wednesday morning I thought I would have some breakfast out on the screen porch. Itís a nice way to relax and start the day by watching and listening to the birds at the bird feeder. Everything was going along fine for the cardinals, grosbeaks, bluejays, chickadees and finches that had gathered to join me for breakfast. Pickerel Frog Pickerel Frog All at once they  scattered as a fat woodchuck climbed up on the tray feeder, stretched out and began eating the sunflower seeds. Oh well. I suppose it was his breakfast time, too, so we spent about 15 minutes sharing each otherís company.

There are two woodchucks spending the summer here. This one lives under a large brush pile on the north side of the house. Heís pretty easy to get along with and stays out of trouble. The other one lives in the old machine shed, is much larger and has taken a liking to some of the garden veggies. He neatly ate the tops off two rows of string beans the other day. Guess Iíll have to have a little talk with him. Think it will do any good? Me neither!

My morning walk took me up the hillside through the prairie meadow to see what is new and in bloom. I nearly stepped on a little pickerel frog that was kind enough to stop hopping long enough for me to take his picture. Bumblebee Pollinates Bergamot Bumblebee Pollinates Bergamot Like his larger cousin, the leopard frog, the pickerel frog may be seen a long ways from water this time of year. Iíve seen them a half mile from the nearest water source. But for the occasional croak of a bullfrog or the bird-like song of a tree frog, there isnít much for frog songs by the end of July.

Even the bird songs arenít what they were a few weeks ago. Many of the young birds have fledged and dispersed across the countryside. Itís the beginning of the end of the peak nesting season, and there isnít as much singing going on in the valley. It happens every year with frogs, birds, flowers, insects and all animals. Their seasons for love are short, and before you know it, they are gone for another year. I patiently wait all winter to hear and see them again.

Marsh Milkweed Marsh Milkweed The spicy wild bergamot (wild bee balm) is putting out the last of its pretty light lavender flowers. Soon it will go to seed and the bumble bee will have to fly on to some of his other favorite flowers. Another lavender flower is in bloom in the meadow: tall marsh milkweed. Iím sure the bumble bee will pay them a visit along with many other insects. The more flowers the better. The more bees to pollinate the flowers the better, and the more seed to spread around is even better yet.

When the flowers start to bloom around the old school house, they slowly turn the tattered old building into a country cottage. The purple phlox is in full bloom and the red bee balm is on its last legs, but the sunflowers and morning glories are just coming on. I wish they would last forever, but then I wouldnít have anything to look forward to. I set a half a cantaloupe out near the garden. American Carrion Beetle American Carrion Beetle It wasnít sweet enough for my taste, and I wanted to see who else might eat it. Of course, there are always the ants. There were many kinds of flies and bees who sampled the melon, as well as a few American carrion beetles. Apparently the butterflies have the same taste for melons that I do and I havenít seen a single one stop at the not-so-sweet cantaloupe.

A pair of house wrens built a nest in a hollow gourd near the back door. I love to hear their warbling songs and scolding chatter each morning when I step out the back door. Itís possible that it could be the third nesting for the wrens since they returned in late April. Sometimes, I think these tiny, high energy birds are telling me to get busy and stop wasting away the day. ďWatch us. You donít see us standing around smelling the flowers when thereís work to be done. Keep busy, busy, busy.Ē They have yet to convince me to move through my day that fast. Right away I am drawn to a beautiful group of tall yellow cone flowers.

Home Sweet Home Home Sweet Home The two young red-tailed hawks that fledged up on the ridge have been spending a lot of time in the valley. Each morning and evening I hear their raspy begging calls as they fly over the tree tops following one of their parents. They follow their parents around for two or three months before they finally develop the skills to catch their own food. The two young hawks are noticeably different in size, with the larger of the two being the female. I got a good look at her lovely first-year plumage when she flew right over my head. First year hawks have long brown tail feathers and dark chocolate breast feathers. Some time in Autumn, the two young red-tails will make a journey south for the winter, but their parents will stay here with me.

Naturally yours

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elaine from from hernando, fl on August 18, 2012 at 06:16:35 AM
I still miss your art work too.
elaine from from hernando, fl on August 18, 2012 at 06:15:43 AM
We have enjoyed our family of hawks this year, but they can be very noisy and bother the other birds at times. They all seem to settle it out.
Still no bees, I am going over to the extension office and see what they say about that. Very few butterflies. However, we did have a large black one on the screen one morning and thought it was a bat but after closer inspection saw it was not a bat.
We have had several little frogs this year, my husband Bob went around the outside of the pool screen to try to stop up holes. We like the frogs but when they get inside of the screen, they usually drown in the pool. The crickets do the same thing. One of our black snakes is back again which with the mosquitoes this year is a good thing.
We lost our 50 year old son to hiv this past month and so we are looking to nature to nouture ourselves.
I love your house, I could gleefully leave like that for a while.
Well,we are off to south fla area to visit our younger son and his family. We went to Orlando for our daughter's birthday on Weds. That place is just too crowded.
Love the pics of the woodchuck. sincerely Elaine
Ben from from Tybee Island, GA on August 9, 2012 at 09:11:42 PM
Great column. I have been putting out two orange halves every day ala yours in the July 15 column. I keep waiting for the house finches or red-bellied woodpeckers to discover them. But so far only the squirrels and me are eating them. (I eat mine in the kitchen, not on the tree.) The squirrels are cute, eating them upside down, with their noses buried in their juicy centers.
Gwendolyn from from Cape Coral,+FL on August 9, 2012 at 06:59:06 AM
Nice to see where you live. Next, how about a picture of your truck. I still miss seeing your beautiful art work.
Kathleen from from Methuen, Ma on August 9, 2012 at 06:02:38 AM
I love to read about your nature meanderings! They remind me of being lucky enough to grow up in the middle of nowhere SC, surrounded by the forest with a pond in the front yard!

Thank you!
Jan from from TN on August 8, 2012 at 07:29:57 PM
How pretty is your "Home, Sweet Hone"!! Is the woodchuck the same as what we call Groundhogs here in TN? They look much the same, the one in my yard is more cinnamon-colored, but still fat like the one you pictured. I surprised "mine" at the back of my yard by the honeysuckles the other day and he just lazily moved on through the brush.
Hope you are getting rain, last Saturday morning, it rained almost 3" in about an hour I sure wish the Midwest had some of it.
Thanks again for your lovely word and camera pictures! Happy Naturing!
Maria from from Lockport, Il. on August 8, 2012 at 06:44:47 PM
You are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the country. And your home sweet home is really sweet.
Jean from from Lees Summit, MO on August 8, 2012 at 04:15:37 PM
Thanks so much for your "Home SweetHome" and other photos. Phlox are beautiful and Zinnias, so much work for one person. I love your column, reminds me of my very early years in Northern Iowa and my grandparents farm. Blessings, Jean
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