This Land Is . . .

My land. I’m sure of it. I don’t own it all, but I walk it often because it’s not posted and I know it well. Well, only just so well. It’s constantly offering me new learnings.

o-Mt Wash

And so once again, out the back door I ventured, intending to head north toward the land of snow–haha. My sister asked the other day if we still had snow. We don’t have any on our land, but this is our view from the power line right of way–yup–we’ve got snow 😉 (in our view).

o-tick

I changed my mind about the direction, however, when I saw numerous dog ticks on the tips of grass as I crossed our neighbor’s field. Though they aren’t the purveyors of diseases such as Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and Anaplasmosis, seeing them still unnerved me and I decided to head in the opposite direction where it isn’t so grassy. Of course, that’s where the deer ticks live. Nightly tick checks are a must every day.

o-early yellow rocket 1

It was in the opposite direction that I was caught by surprise. Behind a local business, where the land had been disturbed a year ago, a wall of yellow greeted me.

o-yellow rocket 3

It was a sea of early yellow-rocket that is common along roadsides and fields. Apparently this one spot was the cat’s meow for it to grow so prolifically.

o-bee 3

What was more prolific–the sound.

o-bee 1

Bees and other insects hummed as they worked,

o-bee 2

filling their pollen sacks to the brim.

o-fritillary 1

Even a fritillary butterfly enjoyed the goodness within.

o-fringed 2

Those weren’t the only wings I saw. It was a complete surprise to also discover gaywings or fringed polygala growing deeper in the woods.

o-turkey print

Walking along, I flushed a couple of deer and a ruffed grouse. And though I didn’t see or hear any turkeys, I knew they’d been there by their signature prints.

o-tadpole 1

And then I slipped off the trail to stop at a vernal pool that I don’t often visit. The water is shallow, but tadpoles are growing.

o-tadpole 2

A week or two ago after they’d just emerged, they were easy to spot as they clung to their egg masses or swam by water’s edge. But they are maturing and I had to stand still or they’d disappear under the leaf cover.

o-water scavenger larvae

While standing there, I spotted another resident I didn’t immediately recognize–the larval form of a water scavenger beetle. According to A Field Guide to the animals of Vernal Pools,  “they are poor swimmers and will hang from the water surface (where they obtain oxygen) or hide in vegetation to await prey.” That all makes sense given their body structure.

o-sugar ant?

On the way back, another insect stopped me. I think they were sugar ants with a white thorax. But why were they on beech leaves? Then again, every insect seems to like beech leaves. I guess I don’t think of them as being sweet, but . . .

o-old gate in wall

As I headed home, I paused by an old wall and gate. This land was farmed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The walls formed boundaries for animals and are owned by numerous neighbors I’ve never met. Thankfully, they let me and others cross–though few will do so until hunting season begins in the fall.

Anyway, it all got me thinking about who owns the land. And then I knew the actual answer. The plants. The trees. The flowers. The insects. The amphibians. The birds. The mammals. They all own the land. We are mere visitors. I thank all of nature for letting me trespass and gain a better understanding of its various life forms.

This land isn’t my land. And it wasn’t even made for you and me. But I have great reverence for it. And for those who have protected it.

Happy Memorial Day.

The Need for More

Yesterday I stopped into our local independent bookstore, Bridgton Books, to purchase a title recommended to me by a friend (thanks D.B.), H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. While there, Pam, one of the proprietors, showed me Reading Rural Landscapes by Robert Sanford because she thought I’d be interested. Of course I was, and so for all of two seconds I debated about which to buy and guess what–I’m now the proud owner of both titles. I had earned a $10 credit (for every $100 spent, you receive $10 off if you belong to their book club and there is no book club fee–truly independent).

At camp, I was also reading another book (purchased at Bridgton Books a year or two ago). Well, actually rereading it because I like the author’s style/voice and maybe just a wee bit because she’s an Episcopalian. And she lives in Alaska–another draw for me. If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from small-town Alaska by Heather Lende.

3 books

Both last evening and this morning, I read from all three. Not simultaneously, of course. It’s always been that way for me. Skipping from one topic to the next. Easily bored? I don’t think so because being bored is not part of my makeup. More like an insatiable need to know more.

The bees and wasps and flies and ants and hummingbirds have the same insatiable need right now, as they flit and walk and crawl from one plant to the next, sucking nectar and exchanging pollen along the way.

beebee2

This busy bee was well-laden with pollen. Its bright orange sacs bulge on its hind legs like a kid wearing arm floaties in the water.

bee on mintbee on mint 2

Every time a bee visits flowers, the pollen sticks to its fuzzy body–its antennae, legs, face and body. Think pollen magnet!

The middle legs are equipped with comb-like hairs that scrape off the pollen and transfer it to the pollen presses located on the hind legs.

bee 3

Like our calves, the bee’s legs have a tibia or lower leg section. The tibia is shiny and surrounded by hairs, including some that are rather long and stiff. These form the pollen basket. Located at the lower end of the tibia  is another comb-like structure (ankle), and on the metatarsus (heel or foot) is the press. When it comes to pollen collection, the two structures work together like levers.

Nectar moistens the pollen, making it sticky. The pollen is transferred to the press, and then is manipulated between the press and comb until it sits flat on the bottom of the tibia. Each time a new batch of pollen is added, it’s pressed onto the bottom, forcing the pervious batches to move further up the tibia.  A full basket (think one million grains of pollen) bulges, but hairs hold the pollen in place as the bee flies from one plant to another before heading home to stock the nest.

beefly on goldenrod

It’s not just hairy bees who are active in the gardens.

large blue wasp

Gathering for the family is important business.

wasp 2

Thanks to the goldenrods and asters, there’s plenty of pollen and nectar still to be gathered.

yellowjacket

The mint seems to be the biggest hit among the variety.

spiders 1

And there is other action as well. A funnel weaver tried to challenge the larger spider, but quickly retreated.

spider 2

Whenever I take a closer look at the crawling and flying members of the gardens, I’m in awe of their colors, patterns, hair or lack of, and overall body structure.

inchworm

You may have to look closer to find the visitor on this coneflower.

red legged grasshopper

This red-legged grasshopper tried to make itself invisible.

grasshopper 2

The camouflage worked better once it climbed to the top of the fence. When grasshoppers fly, I can hear their wings make a rasping sound. But moving as this one was, there wasn’t a peep. The crickets and cicadas, however, I couldn’t see, but they’ve been contributing to a chorus all day.

hummer approaching

hummer approaching 2

hummer approaching 3

hummer approaching 4

hummer approaching 5

And then there is the hummingbird–ever swift and beautiful with its iridescent colors. Whether it is dining on nectar or insects attracted to the nectar, I don’t know, but it always returns, seeking more.

We all have the need for more. The frightening thing is that oftentimes we take more than we need. For the sake of the birds and insects, we need to think about that and how we might change our ways.