Spring Surprises 2013

This year it was a long, slow spring with a late snow surprising the snowdrops who’d thought it was safe to come up by 21st. Feb.

Snowdrop surviving a late snowfall

Snowdrop surviving a late snowfall

Three days earlier it had been warm enough to lift the lid of my one remaining beehive and see if they were still alive – there they were with stingers extended:

5223 Bee stingers on frame

They were furious that their warm winter blanket had been too soon removed. I was actually delighted (well, almost) to receive my first sting of the season.  Here is the stinger after I pulled it out, under a 50x magnifier:5224 stinger 50x

A month later the crocus was open and the bees started to work, peacefully this time.5574 bee on crocus

Now in the first week of May they are arriving with many different pollen colors:5894 Bees landing wi pollen

They only collect from one flower type at a time. This allows each flower species to be properly pollinated, but to the bee the pollen is only protein and so the pollen is all randomly mixed when they store it in their honeycomb.

Ants and spiders try to enter the hive but few succeed.  The marking on this spider (who was inside the hive)6027 Black Spider

reminds me of the ‘face’ on one I found last year:Skull spider wi dead bee

This white spider appeared to have overcome the bee and was dragging it away.

The Maumee river rose and fell with the rains and the walleye fisherfolk returned:5564 Walleye Fishermen

Obviously pregnant geese5538 Pregnant goose

laid up to 6 eggs at a time, but once again at least 5 eggs were randomly dropped and abandoned around the shore of the small island, surprisingly ignored by birds and  squirrels.5650 Goose plus one lost egg

I’m now told the geese often do this for no apparent reason!

Today (5/8) I saw different families of one, three and twelve goslings each.6118 Two goose famiilies 3 n 12

But on the grass there was a simple pile of down telling of some sinister happening5865 lost down


There is one lively squirrel who repeatedly travels a treetop route every day – too quick to catch in mid-air with my cell phone camera but I keep trying.  Keith at ikedabarry.com kindly morphed my two separate photos, taken seconds apart, into one ‘before and after’, showing the proper gap between the trees – see below:flying sqrl 001

He then offered me the choice of two images of what I saw, or what I thought I saw. They’re both so great I can’t decide between them:

flying sqrl 002
flying sqrl 002
It also eyes the bird feeder and approaches, claw over claw, on the window screening. Alice the cat enthousiastically watches that.5888 Squirrel at feeder

The magnificent Red Trillium is open.

5937 Red Trillium green leaf

Its leaf (Later: I think it is the ‘Sepal’ rather than the leaf) sometimes carries a beautiful blaze of red also

6038 Red veined green leaf T

The flower reportedly has a carrion odor that attracts flies for pollination.

6022 fly on Trillium

To me it smelt more like baked ham. Does anyone know the odor of Ontario’s white Trillium?

For years I’ve pulled dandelions in the front garden.5920 misc dandelion roots

Looking closely I now see where a new leaf and flower stem can readily grow from where the old root snapped during the previous weeding.5921 new D on old root

Ohio State Extension says you need to pull 4 to 6 inches (100 to 150 mm) of root when weeding this alien invasive. They say that even then it might still regrow, in which case they simply recommend pulling it again. Good thing I’m retired and have nothing else to do!

A little further along Water Street, beside the X-Country ski trail, are two “Vernal Pools”6045 Vernal Pool

In Spring they fill with water and teem with life, then dry up in the summer. Not being connected to the river, they have no fish and so a very different ecosystem can flourish. Scooping a small net immediately catches many strange, to me, creatures. They are so small that water to them is viscous and they swim with peculiar, jerking motions. Hard to persuade them to keep still for my simple 50x magnifier photos. The scale is in mm with the bug immediately below being about 2 mm dia.6065 Pregnant Bug

I presume the one below is a just hatched egg from the one above.

Later: Naturalist, Karen S. kindly id’d the one above as a Water Flea, and one of its progony below.

6072 Baby bug

She says the next two are Mosquito larvae.

6070 Bug no 46067 Bug no 36066 Bug no 2

And the last Spring Surprise shows a good reason to keep your meadow grass short and your feet shod, though lacking a rattle tail I doubt it was dangerous. At about 30 inches (750 mm) long I could not immediately identify it on-line. Any suggestions?

Later: Nat S. says it’s a Garter Snake, paler than usual because it might be preparing to shed it’s skin – Thanks Nat.6091 2pt5 ft snake

6097 Snake Head

This one was more anxious to hide in the shrubbery than to attempt to eat the photographer.

The Carnivore Chronicles or Tennyson’s Shriek of “Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw”

These views are from the back window of 341 with an iPhone loosly held up to a poor quality spotting scope (I find zooming in with the iPhone camera helps in cropping out the black circle framing of the scope image). They show nature is still hungry for more flesh, especially in burgeoning springtime.
This Bald Eagle, about 100 yds (or meters) away, is one of two who swoop through the sky together, but are too nimble to be caught in a photo.

Two Red Tailed Hawks have paired up. The squirrels run away very fast when these two swoop between the trees.

Down at water level a fish carcass, probably collateral damage from the now finished Walleye hunt, is cleaned up on from the sand bar on a low water day by the Turkey Vulture. Why does such a useful bird have to look so miserably evil?

(We are not letting the cats out unescorted on the balcony).

Closer to home my indoor Oleander was being over-run again by yellow aphids. They attack the flower bud stems which fall off before opening. (If the aphids did not do that I might let them stay). It only takes about 3 hours with the plant moved out onto the balcony for word to get around that dinner is served: black ants and red ladybugs devour every last aphid by the time the day is done so I can bring Oleander back indoors to protect her from the cold night.

My reward is blossoms galore – sorry Aphids:


Cormorants (Double Crested?) have just made their way up the Maumee River. I first knew them in Ireland where my father described them as ‘very dirty birds’.  Forty four years ago I saw none on Lake Ontario, then 10 years later I saw a few solitary birds off Toronto Islands.  Ten more years passed while the population increased to cloud-like flocks on the horizon.  Moving to Lake Erie 24 years ago I saw the whole cycle repeated as the invasion of the Great Lakes proceeded westward.  Now we saw about seventy of them perched on one tree on “Small Island” outside 341. Their droppings often kill the trees, as has happened at Lake Erie Islands, because of high ammonia content or just outright volume of guano, I’m not sure which.