Spring: Sprung

Finally: it’s beginning to look (and sound) a lot like SPRING!

Bloodroot always shows up on the south-facing bank of the road down into our valley before we see it on the banks of the “New Road.” We spotted it just yesterday in this cold sink of a holler.

The Louisiana Waterthrush have returned–a not so common bird that IS so common along Goose Creek and Nameless Creeks. We must have habitat that matches exactly the spring and summer accommodations they are looking for. We almost NEVER see them but hear their calls.

We might have seven breeding pair in our little bowl. By the first of June I can hear slight differences in the calls of one male versus his rival. Paying attention to this kind of nuance of detail is to enrich the relationship of man to beast. We don’t just have Louisiana Waterthrush. We have these unique individual couples!

Another early resident is the Chestnut-sided Warbler, whose call I learned phonetically as “please ta meetcha missus beecha.” Maybe. There are some characteristic and universal pieces to the overall male song, but great liberties are taken on the theme, again, to individualize birds in their overlapping ranges, and for the pleasure of human ears.

And even though my site stats show that more often than not, links I add don’t get clicked, here’s one anyways. You can listen to a track of Chestnutsided song. Pay attention to the differences–either in consecutive calls from one male or calls from several distinctive males, I don’t know. The song is the same, but different.

So listen deep this spring. Write out bird song as musical  notes; give the song quality a few adjectives as you listen; or graph it out as dots and dashes rising, falling short or long. This focuses attention-awareness is ways that the simple hearing of a bird vocalization will not.

And when next spring comes, you’ll be glad to welcome back your avifauna, even though you’ll rarely see them at all.

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Doin’ It When it Don’t Fit

Wire-waisted Wasps

Forgive me the incorrect grammar and the suggestive title. The phrase just seems to, well, mate with the mood of the moment.

You see I am cooking in somebody elses kitchen, going on a week. The MacPro is in the shop with multiple system failures (video and memory) and so I’ve resorted to using the laptop on the kitchen table, and nothing fits. But blog goes on.

Earliest autumn is a great time to find insects gathered on the goldenrod. This everywhere plant is an easy-to-locate pickup spot where a single blister beetle, locust borer or “wire-waisted wasp” as I call these lovelies can congregate and be sure to find a mate waiting there, nonchalantly sipping on a glass of nectar.

To mate means to match. If a locust borer male takes a shine to a wire wasp female: sorry, Charlie. The mismatching business parts will stop the kinkiness right there. This, along with behavioral incompatibilities, are some of those “mechanical pre-zygotic isolating mechanisms” that keeps one species bound to only his or her own kind.

Even with a built-in Tab A in Slot B matching of parts, take a look at this couple. What else has to line up so there will be wee wire-waisteds next year?

She is hard-wired to lift her threadlike “petiole”–which in this particular species (somebody give me a scientific name?) is particularly long and wire-like. Note the “stem” of her abdomen is lifted maybe 70 degrees, with the terminal abdomen flexed at more than 90.

Should she remain with her abdomen and female receptive parts in normal resting posture, there will be no baby wasps come April. He, on the other hand, has to know exactly how to hold on from above with his front legs only (maybe also with his mandibles?) splaying his back legs wide to give clearance for her contortions.

All the parts and behaviors and hormonal signals and cellular chemical compatibilities have to be perfectly fit or they are perfectly useless.

My situation is not quite so dire. I can make do, temporarily, when not much is where it should be when the moment of need arises. I hate to tell you how long it took me to get this image into a useful form and place.

I am more than ready for the computer to be home again, and return to the status quo ante: a place where my rear end fits the chair, my hands fit the keyboard, and all the apps and links and bells and whistles of computing and writing fit in Goldilocks fashion, just so, and I can just do it!

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Biota of the Blue Ridge: Christmas Fern

Coiled like party-favor noise-makers for a spring celebration

Circinate vernation.

…a  term retrieved from a box marked “botanical” found on a top shelf of a back room where the door has not been opened for tens of years. Why the brain keeps such trinkets of Latin jargon I do not know, but I am somehow richer for it, I presume, finding it has been stored there, to ferment and ripen like ancient wine in the vault of the brain in the dark neglect for other things more practical. But there it is when I needed it: the term to describe the unique unfolding of the crozier of the frond of the Pteridophytes.

The generative tip where cell division gives rise to swelling cells that will become the lacery of a fern leaf begins protected, coiled within the more mature parts last hour or yesterday put in place in miniature, protected also, as often as not, by thin scales or silvery hairs that keep the vulnerable parts sheltered from the cold, from the drying winds and as little direct sun as their growing place under a closing canopy will allow, and perhaps also from those with or without backbones who might find fiddleheads on their spring menu.

How do you unfold in spring? Through your life? Like the cabbage whose leaves in bud swaddle each other in successively larger, thicker layers, the heart always hidden deep inside? Or like the White Pine, five advancing lines of growth, side by side out of the starting gate, bursting from the sheath at the tips of terminal buds, lateral buds, racing to keep pace with the root tips pushing their way out into new food for thought?

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