2012 Friday Phenology – Week 23

My apologies for the delay in getting this report out. My only reason is that summer is here, and with that comes much busy-ness.

Summer IS here – heralded in this week with pollen from the Ponderosa Pine trees. Wednesday was the first day we noticed that all too familiar layer of yellow dust on the cars. The bird bath in the garden has a ring of yellow on it as well. And the heat and wind have been with us much of the week. That heat builds some rather amazing clouds right around us, and then moves them out east. What we see is amazingly gorgeous, but we also know that it means someone out there is getting pounded with that storm.

And that was the case this week with the hail and tremendous downpours that destroyed so much in Parker and Colorado Springs. I didn’t bring out the camera for the mammantus clouds, though they were gorgeous and many people in the Springs got to see them. They say they’re rare, but actually up here we see them quite often on the back ends of storms. I really should start making notes when we see them, but usually it’s when someone is really getting hammered from the storm. At sunset, they can be quite spectacular.

Mammantus Clouds at Sunset, July 2009

Birds

The main story this week was about the failure of the nest with the White Breasted Nuthatches. I now only occasionally hear a White Breasted Nuthatch around, so I think that pair may have gone their separate ways. The Violet-Green Swallows, though, are around often and house hunting. They have been eying the nest box we have on the west side of the house as well as the box the Nuthatches were in. They come in groups of 2, 4 or 6, all careening around in large circles, hovering in front of nest boxes and occasionally landing on top of them.

The bird box on the west side of the house has never been used, but it was put there after we sealed up the hole to a nest some tree swallows used a few years back that gave them access to the space above the upstairs bathroom. We’d come home from a June vacation to find them already nesting there, so let them finish. It was interesting to hear the baby birds hopping around on the other side of the drywall in the ceiling, but that really didn’t need to continue. The tree swallows looked at the replacement space and rejected it.

On a drive to town the other day, I saw what I thought were 3 ravens out in a cow pasture, walking along the ground. But on the trip back home, they had walked closer to the road and I could see they were three Turkey Vultures. I’m not sure if they walked all the way over, but I’ve seen them there, close to Divide quite a few times lately.

One evening this week, we sat out by the garden to end our day and while chatting, we started to talk about the various birds we hear around here. There’s been on twittering bird I haven’t been able to place, so I got out the iPad and started playing some bird songs from All About Birds. It turns out that it was a Slate Colored Dark Eyed Junco – who responded instantly to the call on the iPad. I played it again and it swooped down toward the source of the sound, but was obviously confused. Behind us a Band Tailed Pigeon was at the top of a pine tree cooing away, and we nailed down a few others as well that both of us have heard.

Mike had a chance to see a couple of Great Blue Herons out at one of the more remote reservoirs in the area when he was there for work this past week. That remote location would certainly be a desirable nesting area. He said they would fly around and land at the very top of a pine tree – which we’ve seen before, but it’s just an odd sight.

Deer

The deer have been caught on the trail cam a few times this week, but still no fawns. Instead, we have a doe that really looks quite uncomfortable at this point. They should be starting to drop fawns fairly soon.

Botanicals

With the heat we’ve had this week which seemed to trigger the pollen from the pine trees, and the lack of moisture in this area has started to dry up a lot of the plants. The weeds in the dog yard are down right crunchy to walk on. The wild iris are blooming everywhere there’s enough water for them and the showy locoweed is just starting on a decline. One batch I saw along the roadside was a deep, dark magenta. Most are white, to lavender to pink, but this deep magenta was the first I’ve seen so dark. Really lovely.

I’m hoping we can get out this week to a spot we visited last summer not far from here where it’s much more wet and check to see what all is blooming there.

Insects

The wasps and flies as well as the moths and butterflies have absolutely exploded in numbers this week.  The first horse flies were bothering the dogs as they enjoyed the cool breeze on the deck which had Taylor snapping at them as they flew around. She actually catches quite a few that way. Rhad, on the other hand, just prefers to head inside.

The day the White Breasted Nuthatches stopped feeding the babies was the day I noticed my first Sphinx Moth of the year, or I’m assuming it’s a Sphinx Moth simply because of the size. It was also on that day that I could resume taking moth photos in the mornings. With the babies growing, they were taking all the moths as quickly as they could each morning and I just gave up for the time being. I timed them one afternoon and they were feeding on average about every 4 minutes, and more often in the mornings, so the wall under the shop light was emptied out quickly. I still need to carve out some time to work on the moth photos taken this week.

I also noticed last weekend the rolled aspen leaves on the trees. Each contained something that was turning into a moth or butterfly. By the end of the week, they dried and fell to the ground, and all of them are empty. If I can find one, I may stick it in a jar to see what emerges. Also, the tent worms are still in their tents on the aspens.

Spruce worms are dangling mid air most everywhere around here. They drop down on thin silvery threads, then climb back up – and all the spruce trees seem to have the tips of the branches wrapped in threads. They are particularly thick this year.

So what’s happening in your neck of the woods? Take a few notes, snap a few photos. If you post to your blog, share a link! I love seeing what’s happening in other corners of this amazing world.

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