The mayflies (or gnats) are here, which means no more walking in the woods without being swarmed. In another couple of weeks the mosquitos and deer flies will be in full force. So, to avoid the swarm, we went for an early morning walk yesterday. 6:30 a.m., 28 degrees (note the ice crystals on the wild strawberry and cattail below).
We had barely entered the woods before we inadvertently frightened a bunny and a deer sipping from a small pond. A little further into the walk we saw a pileated woodpecker. The pileated woodpecker is large, roughly the size of a crow and the largest type of woodpecker in the U.S., and has a bright, flaming red crest on its head. It makes quite the ruckus in the early morning woods as it loudly excavates deep into rotting trees for insects. So, again, another banner wildlife viewing day in the woods.
Well, now our March is feeling a little more normal! Yesterday, we received 2-3″ of wet snow overnight, with more expected today. Although the hens and ducks were less than pleased to have their insect-feast covered once again with that pesky white stuff, I have to say it looked quite beautiful on the trees and shrubs.
As you can tell from the photo below, some of our Spring songbirds — here, the red-winged blackbirds — were looking a little put off as well.
Others were a bit more resourceful. As I walked out to the sheep barn to give my little dumplings their breakfast, a small flock of robins flew out from under the horse canopy (no we have no horses; it’s a hold-over from the previous owner and now we use it to stash our recently cut trees until they can be split into firewood) where they managed to find the one patch of exposed grass and soil. They flew into the sumacs that line the edge between the orchard/garden area and the woods.
Staghorn sumac (R. typhina) is native to the mid-atlantic region. It grows, quite hardily, along forest edges, roadsides, and in old farm fields. It can grow in very rocky, dry soil and around here, you often see patches of it growing up in the foundations of old farm houses or tumbled down barns. Staghorn sumac flowers in June and July, and produces this beautiful, red fruit from July through winter. The tree is an important winter food for grouse and wild turkeys, as well as the early arriving songbirds, including robins. Rabbits and deer browse the foliage and in the warmer months, bees and other insects enjoy the pollen and nectar. Its brilliantly colored fall foliage — with its intense shades of red and orange — make it no slouch on the aesthetic front either.