Lincoln Road Journal, One year in the yard, late June, 2010
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
This evening I had time to amble. A bracket fungus on an oak I've observed all year was in rich color in the early evening light. Bracket fungus attach to trees and eventually can kill them, though damage apparently can vary depending upon the type of fungus. This tree looks ill. I think the bracket fungus is affecting it, but it looks as if it wasn't healthy to begin with. In a world of survival of the fittest -- or the luckiest in some cases -- this small oak is neither healthy nor lucky.
Out on the edge of Lincoln Road in the tangle of vetch, milkweed, Campion, rye grass and other assorted plants, I sought signs of monarch caterpillars or butterflies.
Instead I found a grasshopper, a young one, bright green, with reddish brown eyes. It was hunkered down on a leaf of a milkweed and it moved to the stem to try to hide from me.
I'm certain it was quite young in that grasshoppers usually are quick to flight.
This one just tried to keep out of sight by trying to keep the stem of the plant between it and me.
But I discovered if I put one hand to the left of the stem, it would move right -- and land in the focal area of my camera. So I shot away.
I don't see a lot of grasshoppers out here in the woods. In the foothills of Texas, this month an infestation of grasshoppers is making life miserable. Apparently they hatch in great numbers there about once a decade numbers and make themselves a nuisance.
According to the Merced Sun-Star, http://www.mercedsunstar.com/2010/06/26/1474535/foothills-suffer-invasion-of-grasshoppers.html, residents in a town of Hornitos said 10 years ago the infestation was memorably bad.
"They ate the paint off my house," David Latona said. "They were so thick, they covered the road."
Here in Ludington, Michigan, we aren't having an infestation. One a plague does not make. I left the grasshopper alone. There's plenty of vetch and milkweed to go around.
Nearer the creek, the vetch had turned a trick doing what nature does best: reclaiming a mess caused by man. Two years ago 11 inches of rain fell in a few hours turning the little creek into a raging river that washed out the culvert, pulled down utility poles and pushed truck-sized culverts down the creek.
All the lines and road have been repaired. It took a year. But the old wires from the phone line that was destroyed were left dangling. Now vetch is intertwined and the scene is some strange art medium. I'll keep an eye on it.
Returning from the creek I came across a blue darner. The same one? A different one? Don't know. It was flashier, this time highlighted in neon greens in the late evening light. I watched through the lens as it caught a bug and returned to its place on a fern leaf and ate the meal. It paid me little heed, other than to turn toward me and change leaves if I moved too close. I determined if I stayed about seven to 10 feet back, it completely ignored me, other than to keep watch. It watched me, I watched it. It hunted, I photographed it resting in the sun.
Everything I encountered today was done by following a simple directive, look there.
Some days are just different
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
A busy day that drove me to exhaustion with commitments and work.
I knew from the start it'd be a busy day and I was hoping the yard would provide me with a good photo early on so I could at least not stress about finding one in whatever moment I might steal from what I had to do elsewhere.
The yard cooperated -- sort of.
As I stumbled out to pour the first cup of coffee around 6:30 a.m. I looked to the front yard and there were the two fawns and the doe at the edge of the woods, 100 feet away.
I rushed to get my camera, add a telephoto lens, set the aperture and shutter speed, hastily compose, focus and ... the doe heard me inside the house and moved off as soon as I raised the camera. Did she see me somehow though I was inside in the middle of the room? Did she hear me, though I was trying to be quiet knowing a window was open? Did she sense something different?
Perhaps all three. But what the yard giveth to me in answer of my prayer/hope, mother doe took away before I could make a good photo. Within a few seconds the deer moved to the east, out of sight , seemingly melting into the woods.
My momentarily elation irrationally turned almost to anger at myself for not having been better prepared.
I felt agitated. I really want a good picture of the fawns and they've been eluding my camera though I see them every few days.
Then I had to recalibrate my inner self. I mean, the first view of the morning was of a pair of spotted fawns nibbling on the mossy excuse of a lawn next to my hammock. How lucky is that?
At noon I came home and searched for a fungus I had glimpsed the night before. Lavender in color, it looked to be a form of a coral fungus, though I wasn't sure about that. But the lavender color sure sticks out in a mess of bright green moss.
It wasn't the fawns, but it was something different. Mission accomplished photographically and in finding something new, 100 feet from the house.
June 28, 2010
Nearby Lake Michigan has reached a very swimmable 70 degrees during the latest hot spell.
But it all could change quickly.
This evening a cold front moved in from the north, dropping air temperatures into the sixties. A brisk breeze added a fall-like feel to the air.
It was Up North weather, the kind of day a northerner likes, clear, crisp, cool.
Humidity was chased away. So was the heavy, southern air. This air is as cool and crisp as a piece of fresh chilled lettuce.
Good sleeping weather, many will say.
And so it is.
A cold front will chill some, but many in the north are pleased. Some like it hot, others don’t.
Which you are may say a bit about your northern inclination.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
For the past couple of days, I've enjoyed the song of robins. They're Michigan's state bird, and while I think the chickadee would be a better choice, the song of the robins in recent evenings and mornings have been so lyrical and sweet, it's easy to see why they could win such admiration.
They mostly stick to the ground during the day, bopping around eating insects they find.
But they seem to do most of their song perched in trees.
On a day that had rain, fog, sunshine, heat, coolness and more, the robin sang when many other birds were silent.
Nothing too exotic about a robin, but like a good friend, they're good to have around.
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Evolutionary scientists theorize life might have come from a pond, warmed by the sun to the point that the basic building blocks of life somehow promoted linkages that led to life.
Today, in the swamp, the moist and humid air, the abundance of sun and the warmth are echoes of those primal elements. They still encourage life. Fungus is growing. Plants are a healthy green and putting out many flowers. The ground squishes with moisture, a sponge that can't dry out in the humid air.
Thank God for the breeze or it might be too uncomfortable.
A new generation of water striders have hatched on the creek. Compared to the first generation of the year, birthed before most insects had hatched, this generation has it easy. The creek is full of little bugs and they striders eat as if at a smorgasbord.
I'm sure the creekside frogs and nearby toads are eating well. The birds have abandoned our empty feeders, mostly. I let them feed on their own in this time of abundance. I miss their presence at the feeder, but it's healthier for them and more natural to feed on what nature provides.
And with the warmth and moisture, nature is providing.
Though my wife isn't happy about one part of the food chain. The deer are on a feeding tear and they this week discovered her flower beds, eating many lily buds, chewing off strawberry leaves, nipping posies and other flowers.
But to a hungry deer, all those are just food, another primal element. Eating is a priority, as it as been since the start of time.
June 25, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Tired to the point of exhaustion, this afternoon I hung the hammock from between two oaks at the edge of the wood, spread a blanket over it, and took a nap.
There was a steady breeze that kept away bugs and rustled the trees. Fully in leaf, they made a sound that sometimes sounds like rain, but not quite. Under the blue sky, with filtered sunlight warming me, I fell into a sound sleep where the only sense that worked seemed to be my ears.
The rustling of the leaves in the breeze masked other sounds, and I slept to its lullaby.
What's the sound?
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Sometimes photography can fail to tell the story of the day. Photography captured the bright colors of roadside and garden flowers today. It captured the detail of two ladybugs doing what comes natural (how can you tell a male ladybug from a female?)
Photography can capture the lush greens, the rising moon, the blues of the twilight tonight.
But it didn't capture the howls and yipping of coyotes in the woods to the east.
At first we weren't sure what we heard, but the howls followed by the yips made it likely that it was coyotes. A car passing by shut down the chorus. This has happened several other times and more than once a passing car caused the coyotes to quiet.
I've only seen one near the yard. That was a couple winters ago when I skied to the eastern edge of the neighboring subdivision's property east of us. It turned at one point and looked at me. I looked at it. Then it trotted off into the woods.
Another night, I heard several making their calls coming closer and closer to the yard from the west. When they were so close I was sure they come down the driveway, I pressed myself against the garage to wait and watch. A passing car turned them and they quickly quieted and moved to the south instead.
Fox are more often seen, though I've yet to see one in the yard during this project.
I don't mind the presence of either. The woods are full of squirrels, chipmunks, possums, raccoons, and who knows what else. There's food enough for a predator or two.
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June 17, 2010
June 17, 2010
The yellow of the coreopsis drew a bee to it. A slanting ray of sunlight was a spotlight on the patch of flowers amidst a roadside otherwise in shadows.
The bold, bright yellow, yellow-orange of the flowers served as my sun on this day. Too much time at work, in interviews, writing, managing staff issues and projects busied a day better spent outside soaking in the richness that is summer.'
Summer may be a few days away officially, but this was a day that spoke to the boy in me: "Play hooky.""Go to the lake." "Walk the beach." "Take a nap."
Instead, I listened to the mature adult in me and did what my job called for me to do and what my staff, boss, and newspaper customers expected me to do. That's part of life, too.
So the sun's brightness was absorbed and given back to me in the yellow flowers of the coreopsis.
Some days, that has to do. And today was one of those days.
Seen from the porch
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
This marks the start of the 11 month of this 12 month project. More than 95,000 words have been written and probably more than 5,000 images made in this little 3-acre plot of rolling woods in Hamlin Township, Michigan.
I've not gotten rich financially from it, but I've a wealth of experiences, expanded knowledge and awareness of the cycles and rhythms of the natural world out my door. And daily I'm confounded by what I still haven't learned, or worse, slowed down enough to see right before me daily as I go about life.
Today I kept real close to home for the photographs, using only photos taken on either the back deck porch or the driveway immediately adjacent to the house.
The first thing I noticed this morning, aside from noticing the rain had stopped (I had 2.25 inches in my rain gauges but I fear I didn't empty them after the previous rain; most reports from the area were about 1.75 inches overnight -- still significant), was to notice mayflies attached to screens and walls of the house. Not an ungodly amount, just a dozen or so all told. I can't recall noticing any at the house before. Nearby on Hamlin Lake I've kayaked and fished during hatches. But the hatch is on and it is closer to the house than I recall. Perhaps the work done on the culvert, The Big Ugly, that widened and made the creek murkier made it more friendly to mayflies that live in the black muck of nearby rivers. Or maybe there was just such a large hatch from the lake, some mayflies made it to my house.
Leaving for work, the fog rolling in caught my attention. Bu evening it had burned off, but front of solid clouds bisected the sky with clouds to the north, clear sky above me and to the south. It was a strong and distinct line.
I had decided to concentrate on the hummingbirds at the feeder this evening. The low evening light seemed good for photographing the fast moving, 3-inch birds. The male has a bright red bib on its neck, thus the name ruby throated hummingbird. The female is greener in color and lacks the red bib the male sports.
Both were visiting the feeder, sometimes squabbling, but mostly ignoring me I struggled to get the camera properly set and positioned for one of their brief, if frequent, visits. Hummingbirds are fun to watch as they hover, zip off, head for a tree where, once landed and resting, it's very difficult to locate them.
Moving it's easier -- just listen for the buzz of their wings. They flap 50 to 60 times per second, thus creating the humming noise.
Ours seem to know where to look for the feeder each year upon their return from the southern U.S., Mexico or Central America where they overwinter.
Their heart beats at a rate of 1,260 beats per minute and they breath 250 little breaths a minute. That's a lot of action out of a little bird. I wish I had their energy.
As I photographed the male, he hovered once and stuck out his long, snakelike tongue. It was like a whip, hear and gone in an instant.
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