May is my favorite month of the year but today in New England
it's also gloomy with a cold rain predicted for later. I had to go to
New Hampshire yesterday into the foothills of the White
Mountains. I purposefully chose a rural route that wound through the countryside,
like a roller coaster ride. The hills were covered in a veiling of red
(of flowering red maples), dark green (of white pines)and the yellow-green
of tender new leaves (of oak) in wide swaths. Rambling white farmhouses,
gray barns and outbuildings were tucked into the hillsides with red and
gray corrugated metal roofs. Sadly, the days of the small working homestead
is gone, so pastures are few with fewer herefords, milkers, horses or
Pickerels and Pinkletinks
Our peepers, (Pseudacris crucifer), a thumbnail-sized
frog with an X on its back, are chorusing in every damp and wet area.
They were also at one time earlier in our history called pinkletinks which
says more about their individual song than their true plangent arpeggio.
The wood frogs, Rana sylvatica, a small pink
frog with a slash of chocolate-brown behind each eye have stopped their
mad duck quacking and gone back into the forest duff for another year.
Their grapefruit-sized egg masses are floating in every vernal pool. For
years, I did studies, tours and talks on the woodfrogs and habitat. I
tried to separate two males in amplex once, to measure the bottom frog.
They squeaked like mice at the pressure I exerted but I would have had
to broken the arms of the top frog to separate them, so strong was his
grip. I'm beginning to hear gray tree frogs, Hyla
versicolor, and their musical trill will last all summer and into
Birds and Bloodsuckers
May is warbler month. It's when the neotropical songbirds return from South America. It's also when our black fly, tick and mosquito hatch occurs. The bloom of those little bloodsucking, itch-inducing nuisances coincide with the return of insect-eating neo-tropicals--how amazing is nature? A very high percentage of the diet of our baby birds is ticks. I kept repeating that to myself when I had to go to a hospital emergency room to have the proboscises of a deer tick taken from my back. First, my husband tried for a half hour, then my daughter tried for 20 minutes and lastly, the doctor tried for 10 minutes and at my urging finally just curetted it out. The probes act like porcupine quills in that the more they are moved, the deeper they work themselves. My usual procedure is to just pull them off and throw them away.