Showing posts with label spring. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spring. Show all posts

June 15, 2014

Hanging Out at the Spring

I recently checked the scout camera at Camera Trap Spring (in a forest that burned in 2012). On May 10 these bull elk had pretty well stomped the spring into more of a "wallow." You can see their antler buds as this year's antlers start to grow. By now the antlers would be much larger and "in velvet,"  being covered with a nourishing layer of skin and blood vessels.

June 14, 2014

Primroses, Wild Mustard, and Homiletics

Having a sort-of average spring after several dry years means seeing old friends, plus some plants we regard with suspicion.

Cutleaf primose scattered in pasture.
I mentioned the purple/blue mustard. They were succeeded in May by cutleaf (or prairie) primroses—not the huge banks of them sometimes seen on the remaining High Plains grasslands, like Pawnee National Grasslands, but a lot for us.
Cutleaf evening primose, Oenothera coronopifolia
Here is a close-up —these were a little shredded by hail on the previous day.

They have been followed by a yellow-flowered wild mustard that has a sort of rotting-soap smell (or "stale dishrag") when stepped or driven upon. It looks like this one: Sinapis arvensis, but the distribution map does not show it in Colorado. Maybe a relative? Can't mow it all to stop the seeding, so it will be back when conditions are right.

Or as the gospel says, "But when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in its branches."

If preachers ever interacted with the natural world, they might dust off their sermons on the parable of the mustard seed this year. People could visualize it.

May 22, 2014

A Blanket of Stupidity Has Descended on Our County, Part 1

This is not a rattlesnake (Wikimedia Commons).
For an appetizer, consider this post from a Facebook page for residents of my little mountain county:
It's that time of year...rattlers are coming out of hibernation. Wherever you are please be watchfull. Listen to your pets, they know when something isn't right. My dog had this one pinned out in our yard this afternoon. She didn't go near it, but new [sic] it wasn't right. 
(Warn Uncle Joe, cuz he's a-moving kind of slow.)

The attached photo was a picture of a bullsnake, non-venomous and not a threat unless you are a mouse.

Although they have no rattles, bullsnakes will vibrate their tails as a threat display. This produces such reactions from Homo sapiens as this from the same Facebook post:
All Rattlesnakes I see gets to meet my 44 mag with snakeshot. I always like to say hi.
Thanks for sharing, Dave E.

There is more.

May 19, 2014

The Teddy Bears' Picnic

Beneath the trees where nobody sees 
They'll hide and seek as long as they please 
 'Cause that's the way the Teddy Bears have their picnic.
When do the bears emerge from hibernation? And when do they start appearing around the house? A neighbor picked up some on their scout camera, about three miles away, earlier this month. This young (subadult) bear had its picture taken on the 16th, about ten minutes' walk from the house.

Two large bear turds are circled.
Then this morning, while M. and I were eating breakfast outdoors, Lt. Fisher of the Garbage and Carrion Location and Disposal section located and was trying to dispose of a ripped-up sack of garbage on the other side of the wooded ravine in front of the house.

And there was another similar sack and similar bear turds only yards away. Yes, the bears had been having a picnic.

Internal evidence pointed to the garbage coming from the neighbor across the road. She said she had put out her trash on Tuesday, but that the garbage driver "hadn't taken it."

Or maybe she had told her son, the aspiring "dark arts painter," to roll the wheelie bin out to the road, but he never did it. So the bears found it. Whatever. Let's just listen to Der Bingle sing the song.

May 02, 2014

Purple Mustard Explained

Image from Southwest Colorado Wildflowers.
Apparently the combination of several dry years, followed by a pretty good late-summer monsoon in 2013 and decent winter snow has produced so much purple mustard (Chorispora tenella) that people in southern Colorado are asking, "What are the purple flowers?"

Westcliffe botanist Christine MacLeod explains all here.

"During the drier years, seeds from many of our high prairie plants, including purple mustard, chose to remain dormant in the soil, contributing to a rich seed bank for years to come. Seeds can stay in dormancy for many years until the conditions are optimal for sprouting. And that is just what they all have done these past few weeks."

It's another invasive Asian species.

April 17, 2014

The Hummingbird's Gamble

On April 11th I mentioned on Facebook that the first broad-tailed hummingbird had arrived, and a friend a few miles north in similar habitat said that she had seen one too.

The bird flew up to the end of the veranda where the feeder hangs during the summer, circled, and left. I had some sugar water ready, got a feeder from the basement, filled it, and hung it up.

He did not come back that day.

It's a tradition that at least one snowstorm follows the males' arrival. I always tell M. that thousands of years of evolution must have prepared them for this possibility, that they settle into "torpor" and wait it out.

Sure enough, on the 13th we had cold rain and graupel turning into snow, with a foot of snow accumulating and temperatures down around 20° F (-7° C).

The sun came out on Monday, but the hummingbird did not. The feeder hangs there — I can see it from my desk —but no hummer has visited it.

Maybe our one early hummingbird kept on flying. Maybe he froze to death. I would like to know, but I never will. Was the early arrival worthwhile just to get a good breeding territory?

March 28, 2014

First Pasque Flower of Spring

I saw these Pasque flowers blooming on the 26th when I went to check a nearby scout camera.

The amazing part is that they are growing in a finger-deep (or less) layer of leaves and pine needles on top of a huge boulder.

March 19, 2014

You Can't Burn 'Em, You Can't Plow 'Em: SE Colorado's Tumbleweed Blizzard

Southeast Colorado county officials try to deal with the combination of blustery spring winds and last summer's bumper crop of tumbleweeds (Russian thistle).

Burning kills the seeds, but you cannot burn them when it is windy. And the various mulching solutions just scatter the seeds.

March 02, 2014

One Frosty Morning

The forces of fog advance toward the house.
Hoarfrost on Gambel oak.
Yesterday felt like a clash of the weather titans. When I woke up, the air was foggy and the temperature about 20° F. I put on a warm jacket and took Fisher on the road climbing into the national forest. In little more than two hundred yards we had climbed out of the fog, and at the top of the first low ridge, it felt twenty degrees warmer.

All day, a warmer westerly breeze fought the fog advancing up from the plains. (Sort of like the California coast if you substitute the High Plains for the Pacific Ocean.) In the end the fog was triumphant, giving us something that we see only once or twice a year — hoarfrost.

Today the sun broke out, illuminating the frost.

The driveway.
Mixed pines and juniper.
If I had taken the last photo an hour later, I would have heard the Clock of the Cranes — a flock of sandhill cranes overhead, the first of the season here that I have heard.

They were at Monte Vista NWR a few days ago, where they will be "Celebrating Spring in the Valley of the Cranes" next weekend, March 7th–9th.

May 13, 2013

What Is This Thing You Call Spring?

I was almost seventeen before I encountered "spring."

This year, it snowed eight inches on the 1st of May, and the subsequent week was cool, cloudy, and rainy. The sun came out again on the 12th, and today, hauling brush and branches, I am sweating as the temperature hits 80° F (27º C).

Sugarbowl clematis is blossoming and some trees are leafing. (Gambel oak, a native, always waits until late May.) Hummingbirds orbit the sugar-water feeder.

Evidently, our spring is over — or almost over.

But just before my seventeenth birthday, I was living for a time in suburban St. Louis with my older sister's family, and something odd happened.

There was a period of some weeks when it was not too warm, flowers blossomed everywhere, and the notorious St. Louis humidity was not yet oppressive. People seemed to revel in it.

Evidently that is the "spring" of which the poets speak. We never have it.

Ancestral wisdom is encoded in a little verse, however, which tells how Colorado has
Winter in the spring,
Summer in the fall,
Fall in the winter,
And no spring at all.

May 07, 2013

Mountain Snowpack, May 1, 2013

Click to enlarge.
Colorado looking much better, except south of the Arkansas River and in the San Luis Valley —  New Mexico not so good. Compare past years' maps.

April 29, 2013

Signs of Spring (4)

Pasque flower (Wikipedia).
Pasque flowers and spring beauty (Claytonia) finally in bloom.

• Flocks of high country-bound motorcyclists on the state highway over the last weekend.

• Mourning doves are back, while the huge flock of pine siskins at the bird feeders has dispersed.

• The weather forecast alternates "high fire danger" and "rain turning to snow."

April 24, 2013

Think It Has Been Cold This Spring?

Here's a map of record lows during April 2013. M. keeps telling me that more trees should be leafed out by now at low altitudes, such as in Pueblo.

I say, no problem. If it's cold and damp, it's not burning. But yes, I do look forward to planting some things.

April 20, 2013

Signs of Spring (3)

(Illustration from National Geographic)
While I was away in South Carolina, M. reported that she came outside on the 13th to find a bird-feeder opened up and licked clean of sunflower seeds. So the bears are out.

Then yesterday, as we stood in the mud discussing something about the garden water system, there was a buzzing around our heads. Chico* the broad-tailed hummingbird had arrived and was circling the area where the sugar-water feeder should be. Very soon, it was.

Something about the arrival of the hummingbirds always clutches me. It may well snow again, but when they are here, it is the summer half of the year. And in September, even though the weather may be hot, the day comes when the last one (always a female) shutters and locks the summer house, takes her tote bag full of paperback novels, and goes away, and then it isn't summer anymore.

*All male broad-tails are named Chico, just as all scrub jays are named Timmy. Why Chico? Perhaps because he seems to have come home from the wars.

March 24, 2013

Signs of Spring (2)

Sandhill cranes (Wikipedia)
While I was shoveling snow this morning — two flocks of sandhill cranes calling and shimmering in a clear blue sky.

And I don't know if this is springlike or not, but on the 17th a scorpion stung me in the hand — when I was in bed, which felt like a real violation.

The last time that happened was in 1986, I think, but I was in Cañon City, which is an outlier of the Chihuahuan Desert anyway.

It seems like I saw one in this foothills house one other time, but I can't remember when.

These little tan scorpions are not too bad — it's a hit like a wasp sting that is just a memory a couple of hours later. But M. says that venomous desert critters have it in for me.

March 13, 2013

Signs of Spring (1)

Two nights ago: The first scent of skunk spray. So they are up and about.

Last night: A dinner guest said that a bear had been seen in or near Cañon City.

Today: Mourning cloak butterflies in the air when M. and I went for a walk up into the national forest.

May 05, 2012

Mountain Snowpack for May 1, 2012

Click to embiggen.
The snowpack in the southern Rockies is melting fast. The good news for some is that Colorado east of the Divide and the western High Plains has been a little damper this spring. See all snowpack maps here.

April 25, 2012

Attack of the Miller Moths

Yes, there are more of them this year.
Linda McMulkin, horticulture coordinator for Colorado State University Extension of Pueblo County, said the spring moth population usually experiences a wild population explosion only after a wet summer and fall that's followed by a mild winter.

It's been bone dry in these parts for some time, but the mild winter and earlier spring temperatures may have allowed more of last fall's eggs to survive and take flight in search of a sweet buffet . . . . What can miller-hating humans do about the flitty, nasty creatures? Not much.
I've been seeing more of those smaller, tan moths that normally invade in May. Should look them up in the insect field guide.

Update, May 5, 2012: Revenge of the moths.

April 09, 2012

H-Day + 1

Credit: National Park Service
On March 29th at her BIrds and Nature blog, SeEtta Moss linked to a report showing broad-tailed hummingbirds migrating through southern New Mexico.

Two days ago I brought up the feeders from the basement and mixed some sugar water—and sure enough, yesterday, morning, a male hummer buzzed the house.

Only we have not heard or seen him since. Must have been the advance scout.

Typically they arrive around April 15th, a few times earlier, and one snowy spring not until May 1st. Last spring, which was dry, "Chico" arrived on the 17th.

April 05, 2012

Western Snowpack Map, April 2012


I wonder how much difference Tuesday's snow made along the southern Colorado mountains. Ten inches fell at our foothills location, with twice that up higher, according to a friend on the county road crew. All maps from the National Water and Climate Center.