There’s a place here in western Maine that I frequent on hot summer days. Oh heck, there are many places I frequent, but this one is extra special and it doesn’t involve a hike. In fact, from my perspective, there’s only a short distance of a road that consumes hour after hour of my time. But always, it’s time well spent.
The road is dirt and crosses through a hay field that has yet to be cut. Smack dab in the center stands a beautiful Elm and though I’m not sure the Bluebirds nest there, I do know that they at least rest upon its mighty branches for I watched them fly down and disappear into the wildflowers and grasses below and then zoom back up into the tree a few minutes later, their wings of iridescent blue mesmerizing me during flight.
As the Bluebirds flew back and forth to the tree, so I walked back and forth below it. And back and forth again. And again. I have no idea how many times I turned or how often I muttered, “One more time and then I’ll leave.”
But . . . because I stayed I had the good fortune to spend some time admiring a Twelve-spotted Skimmer Dragonfly. In true character, it paused for long periods of time, flew off for a moment or two, and then returned to the same perch. And I gave thanks.
The only other dragonfly I saw was also a skimmer, but about half the size of the Twelve-spotted. At about one inch in length, the female White-faced Meadowhawk also paused for long breaks. And I was equally grateful.
With each step, grasshoppers did what they do–scattered from the dirt road to nearby stems. By the dozens. Providing constant motion and sound.
But then . . . I found two who chose a different activity to entertain themselves and ensure that there will be future generations of grasshoppers in the field.
Aren’t they amazing? And I don’t mean in their canoodling, but rather their design.
My pacing included frequent stops to check out the visitors upon the flowers as well. The Steeplebush appeared to offer a feast to any who chose to stop by.
Because the grass was so high beyond the flowers at the edge of the road, I didn’t realize at first that I wasn’t alone. Twice I was startled because I’d startled another. Both times it was a deer that I didn’t see until they ran off. Do you see the white flag of the tail as one bounded toward the woods?
There was more movement in the grasses and among the flowers. It was accompanied by sound. Looking for stalks moving at odds with the slight breeze, I finally spied the creator of the “Cheap” that resounded almost constantly. A Common Yellowthroat Warbler hopped from one plant to another, possibly seeking a meal to share with youngsters relaxing in a distant tree.
Curiously, a different sound could be heard from the other side of the road, where a male and female frequently took flight before settling down for a bit.
The Bobolink’s song hit notes both low and high, offering a serenade that bubbled forth in a rather bouncy and most pleasant warble.
Every which way I looked, something different presented itself. Some I knew, but others I met for perhaps the first time, such as this large bee fly. I’ve since learned that they are also commonly known as humbleflies, and I found that curious given that with the banded abdomen and patterned wings and overall large size, it hardly seemed humble.
What I’d really gone to check on, however, were the Milkweed plants and their visitors. I wasn’t disappointed for there were both big and little Milkweed beetles.
And Tiger Swallowtails seeking nourishment. This one needed all the nourishment it could get to continue its flight and avoid the birds and other predators. Do you see its tattered wing?
Some, like the Fritillary, chose the road for nutrition and did what butterflies often do.
It puddled. To puddle means to extend your mouthparts and probe the dusty road in search of nutrients. There is no actual puddle involved, but there may be raindrops or in this case, morning dew that help the butterflies extract minerals to share with their gals.
What I’d really gone to see, however, were the Monarchs. And I wasn’t disappointed for a few fluttered about and occasionally landed, much to my delight.
At last, my “One more time and then I’ll leave” utterance became reality and I drove off. And then . . . there was one more sight to behold. I stopped the truck and watched as a fawn bounded in its awkward fawn manner.
Because of the Monarchs . . . I experienced a wonder-filled morning.