Saturday, April 30, 2016

After the Rain

Spring has been rather clement with occasional rainy days and plenty of sunshine. Vegetation in a lot of places looks as though there have been steroids injected into the rain, tall huge and rangy plant life with abundant flowers. I took advantage of a sunny afternoon to take a long hike to see the last of the dogwoods, to hear some of the first of the gray treefrogs calling from the woodland canopy, and to enjoy a nice spring day in nice woods.

Dogwood flowers have all fallen off the understory shrubs in recent days and full- on tree cover is in play now, shutting out light for spring ephemeral wildflowers. But we had a nice spring wildflower season with reports coming from all over the state that this was a particularly good year for Celandine Poppy and Bluebells in a true forest on the Missouri River. Migrating warblers are all in town and waking me up at 5am since I sleep with my windows open. Upon hearing a bird call I don't recognize as a yard resident, I bolt out of bed, grab coffee, and go searching. I've had Tennessee and Nashville warblers in my yard this month and I heard a Veery a couple of mornings ago. If you're not familiar with this haunting bird call, visit any of the websites that play bird calls upon demand. It's downright eerie with circuits of threes, sort of like a Duke Ellington tune.

Meanwhile, May is upon us and it's a busy month with conferences, meetings, and presentations. Tick season is here in earnest, much earlier than it was ten years ago; I recall not having my first ticks until late May, but this year I started attracting them in late February. All of those millions of seed ticks that hatched last July are now little subadults that latch on and creep all over in the hundreds. Thank heavens for hotels with pools with exceedingly high chlorine levels to kill them outright. Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap works wonders on ticks, as well.

I had a nice hike through decent little woods that, in localized areas, have seen certain periods of heavy grazing and are still in recovery mode. But the woods are coming back, slowly, maybe through another two hundred years, but there's species accrual and structural building, and it's a long way from being a super nice woodland. On the upside, there's no bush honeysuckle, which is more than I can write about thousands of acres in Missouri. The heart of the Ozarks, protected by acres of buffering private lands that are not urbanized with bush honeysuckle, are not under the siege of this closed canopy-loving exotic species. But biotic homogenization is occurring at a rapid pace, so we must be vigilant, keep up with the fire, treat exotic infestations before they spread. Resiliency in the landscape is key. Make the landscape as healthy as possible with prescribed fire, no disturbance from heavy equipment or ATVs, keep the hogs out, keep deer numbers low, allow the ground flora to thrive and flourish.

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