Drama in the backyard.
I was watering a climbing honeysuckle yesterday, didn’t notice this creature at first, and inadvertently rained on its parade.
The damp moth fluttered to the lawn, and I took a snap with my phone.
It dried its wings for a minute in the sun, and flew across the lawn, but couldn’t gain altitude.
A catbird noticed, and swooped down.
And those “false eyespots” worked as advertised!
At the last second, the catbird slammed on the brakes and swerved away.
It then sat on a branch and studied the situation, but before it could dive again, Sarah jumped in front of the moth. She likes catbirds, but told this one off, and suggested it go find another snack, and leave the moth alone. A polyphemus moth has less than a week of adult life, that’s short enough, and the bird can find something less beautiful to munch on.
Polyphemus was a giant cyclops in Greek mythology. When Odysseus’s ship landed on his island, Polyphemus invited the crew to his cavern, with typical Greek hospitality, and mentioned he liked seafood. The Odyssey turned out to be a typical cruise line experience, an epic fail, with rampant gastrointestinal issues, a buffet buffeted by fate – by “seafood,” the cyclops meant seafarers, and he started eating the crew.
I don’t understand naming the moth after him – – the fake eyes are clearly in pairs.
And we clearly see it as a welcome visitor, and not to be eaten.
New York State has, I found out yesterday, two identically-named state forests. I visited the one in the Finger Lakes region, just south of Skaneateles Lake. It’s namesake is in Otsego County, about a hundred miles east, near Cooperstown (Baseball Hall of Fame). And a quick web search came up with lots of Bear Swamps, all over the country.
Bears apparently just love a good swamp. And yet quagmires, morasses, even a good foggy fen – – you really cannot interest them. You show them a sun-dappled marsh, spacious, move-in-ready, priced-to-sell, and it’s “Yeah, it’s ok I guess, I don’t need anything fancy, but this is just.. a bit…reedy, I guess. Yeah, that’s it. A bear needs trees, you know?”
Peat bogs, forget it. That’s more of an amphibian scene, and too acidic.
Despite it’s name, Bear Swamp has plenty of hills and woods, and miles of trails. Depending on the website, it’s acreage is 3280, 3300, 3316, or 3539.
Perhaps it’s growing, that would be nice. It’s a pleasant mix of old pine plantations and hardwoods.
And it included kind of a surprise – what, according to my map, downloaded from the state DEC site, was a little creek, yesterday appeared to be a good-sized pond:
I’ve never been to this spot before, and didn’t know if some of this is normally marshland, and just submerged by spring flooding. (And I think that’s the explanation.).
The pond was lapping the edge of one of the access roads, and looked like it had recently washed over it. The access roads are dirt, and were fairly rough, with some huge puddles, and I wouldn’t recommend driving down them without AWD.
This was one of the smooth stretches:
We saw some wildflowers, but what was unusual, were huge stretches of forget-me-nots. And I’m pretty sure, these were Chinese forget-get-me-nots – – I guess they’re not considered an invasive species, but wow they really spread.
Some of this forest was reclaimed farmland, and so, predictably, there were patches of Vinca minor (“periwinkle”) near the sites of old houses – – apparently all the old-time farmers were absolutely required to grow this in their gardens – – but I’ve never seen so many forget-me-nots before.
And also one of the banes of my existence. Garlic mustard, which is really getting on my nerves. A lot of folks who normally don’t visit parks & woods, have been venturing out this spring, while the epidemic has shut down their normal haunts, but I’m guessing they don’t recognize this plant as a horrible plague of its own. I have not taken a single walk in the past few years, without seeing it. It spreads along the access roads, then up the trails, and at this point, it’s impossible to take a walk anywhere in the region without tripping over the smelly stuff. The deer won’t touch it – – the leaves are bitter and contain cyanide (just a bit, they’re still edible, but it shows what kind of an attitude this plant has), and the allelopathic roots not only kill off native plants, but also the soil fungi which are beneficial for trees. Whenever I stop for a drink of water, I yank it out, but it would literally take an army to clear an entire woods. You can see it in this photo, the heart-shaped leaf, and by next year, it may have killed off that flower.
I always think of swamps as low-lying, but Bear Swamp is the high point of the county.
Not culturally, I mean the land around the swamp, soars to 1860 feet (over a thousand feet higher than the county’s lowest point). OK, the Rockies it ain’t, but on the other hand, the Rockies don’t have these cute red-spotted newts.
And it turns out, the forest is indeed growing a bit. The local land trust acquired 145 acres along the creek, and it’s now been attached to the state forest. This watershed drains into Skaneateles Lake, which serves as the reservoir for the city of Syracuse. They’ve managed to keep the water so pure, that the city essentially does no filtering. Isn’t that good to hear?
Spring is finally trickling in to the upstate woods.
Yesterday the trout lilies and bloodroots were out and about, so we’re feeling a bit more sanguine about the weather.
Still dipping into the 30’s some nights, like a bad habit you can’t break.
And the woods still look autumnal in most places. Last year’s beech leaves still clinging on, in a few spots, looking pale and ghostly.
Few trees have leafed out, and other than moss and evergreens, the wood colors are predominately browns and grays.
But finally, not a scrap of snow still lurking, even in the crevices of the darkest ravines.
I wondered why these acorns, even if they didn’t fall far from the tree, left without their caps.
Scene is along a country road, rainy day.
An interesting sensory experience, taking this photo – – a really nice floral fragrance, from the grape hyacinth.
And also, a farmer was busy in the field just in back, with a honey wagon.
If you’re not from dairy country…a “honey wagon” is a/k/a manure spreader. I was going to say “a bucolic scene, despite the pong from the cow manure,” and then realized, that’s exactly right. I looked “bucolic” up, and that word comes from “ox” and “herdsman,” so the cows’ contribution is appropriate.
I read about President Truman giving the press a tour of his birthplace, a farm in Missouri. A White House staffer asked Mrs. Truman if she could please get the President to stop saying “manure.”
Mrs. Truman replied, “Do you know how long it took me, to get him to say manure?”
The farmhouse cellar and a collapsed barn, are just behind the forsythias. Whoever lived there, must have planted the grape hyacinths many years ago, for them to have naturalized and spread so much.