In Our Own Backyard….There’s an explanation for (almost) everythingMaybe it’s just me, but somehow this summer seems a little “off.”
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Maybe it’s just me, but somehow this summer seems a little “off.” There are so many things that are aren’t quite normal about it, from the extreme weather to the oddball way my garden is growing.
I think it probably started long before the June flooding, but that, of course, threw everything even further off track.
Mother Nature gave me the first clue that the summer is kind of upside down this year. The lupine, which normally provides a riot of showy bloom along the dirt road near our home in mid-June was almost non-existent this year. In the 15 years that we’ve lived there, we’ve never had a summer without lupine.
Then, the single pair of loons on our small lake tried two separate times to hatch a chick. I saw one of them sitting on the shallow nest in their customary spot on the end of a tiny island in late May, but they apparently either abandoned the nest or had their eggs wash out of it during the first big rainfall of June. Within a couple of weeks, they had laid another clutch of eggs and were gamely manning the nest when the monsoon rains of late June resulted in another failed attempt. Now, the loon pair is only occasionally in residence on the lake, calling wildly in the hours just after dawn as they fly overhead, either going to or returning from some neighboring lake. Even when one or both is on the lake, they seem listless and far less animated without a chick to raise.
I haven’t seen much of our bald eagles this summer, either. They normally hunt from the tops of a few of the large, dead trees that overhang the lake, and by this point in the summer, their young ones are out and about as well. I haven’t seen an eagle in weeks.
The beavers that normally plague us by cutting our poplar trees and jamming up the causeway seem to have disappeared off the face of the lake as well, and so has the handful of playful otters that used to startle me when I least expected them as I paddled around the lake in my kayak.
The lake has also been plagued by an unusual overgrowth of weeds this summer, possibly encouraged by the days of hot sunshine in between the torrential storms, and yet the leaves of my container-grown garden plants have suddenly started to yellow and die off, as though it were early September.
And then there are the squirrels…. The red squirrel population, which was practically nonexistent when we first moved into our house, has virtually exploded. When we walk out on our front deck in the morning, a red squirrel is always sitting on the railing, staring us belligerently in the eye and refusing to yield his ground, as if he owns the place. There are red squirrels racing up and down the trees, red squirrels cutting pine cones and needle clusters from the tops of the highest trees, red squirrels hanging by their toes trying to get into my sunflower seed feeder, red squirrels pilfering fruit from my hanging strawberry plant as fast as it ripens, and one particularly ornery red squirrel who sits on the limb of a tree outside our bedroom window every morning, hissing and chattering away incessantly as though he is having some sort of a temper tantrum. But every time I open my eyes to see what is causing such a dither, I spot absolutely no explanation as to just what’s making the squirrel chatter so loudly and so long.
I had pretty much figured the whole world of nature had mysteriously turned on its heel when I glanced out the kitchen window one day to spot a red squirrel draped full length across my six-station hummingbird feeder. At first, I thought it was simply resting there to get a break from the day’s heat, but then I realized that it had its head bent over and it was intently sucking hummingbird nectar out of the feeder! I could hardly believe my eyes. I looked on as it drank for a full five minutes, with hummingbirds (and even a few hornets) buzzing around wanting to get in to “their” feeder.
It was then that the light dawned. While there is still no explanation for the other flukes of nature that seem to be happening all around us this summer, there is at least one mystery that has surely been resolved. The noisily chattering squirrel outside our bedroom window that keeps us from sleeping each morning? He’s no doubt “high” on sugar water!