Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Evening Walk Down the Road

It's been in the 80s this week already.  The woods are now flushed with green - mostly honeysuckles - and I think I saw some shadbushes (serviceberries) in bloom as well. 

As the sun sinks in the west and the evening starts to cool, Toby and I find it hard to resist longer walks.  Going down the road and around the corner, we have another lovely old barn, hard by a nice old orchard.

We met the owner of the orchard this evening, who was out walking her spaniel.  It seems, however, that she and her husband are slowly tearing out the apple trees.  What a pity - there are probably some old heritage varieties in there.  They bought the place 15 years ago and have no interest in maintaining the orchard.  Mostly it feeds the deer now.  I'd love to know what varieties are in there.

Our first snake of the season was sadly a roadkill.  It was a lovely large garter snake.  I am constantly amazed at the turquoise blue these snakes turn after death. I am curious as to why, so of course I did a search on-line.  As it turns out, it has to do with chemistry as well as physiology.  "After death, green snakes turn blue in dorsal coloration. Yellow and blue pigments in the skin fuse to produce the bright green color in the living snakes. After death, the yellow pigment breaks down very quickly, whereas the blue pigment is more stable and remains much longer. This is also why garter snakes, that have been dead for a while have blue dorsal and lateral stripes." (from  

I picked up my deceased friend and placed it gently in the grass by a tree.  

There were times in the Adirondacks when I bemoaned the lack of oak trees.  My life is more than making up for this former lack.  The historic landscape of this part of Michigan was largely oak savanna - lots of oak trees.  I am having to work at relearning my oaks - red vs white is easy enough, but then one must consider swamp white, burr, pin, chinquapin, black, fire, and more! One thing I do know - the oaks (I think these are the white oaks) are all gnarly and contorted in their growth pattern.  Silhouetted against the sky they make ideal spooky Hallowe'en trees!  There's something almost Seussian about them.

The forsythia are in full bloom - all within two days!

Last night I heard my first towhee of the season, and saw my first bat.  The woodcocks are in full display, and the killdeer are back.  I hear meadowlarks each morning and evening, too.  Gary thinks he heard a blue-grey gnatcatcher yesterday. 

Rumor has it we should put out our hummingbird feeders.  Not so much for the northward-bound ruby-throats, which are still in Tennessee, but for the possible wayward other species that just might show up!  I must give mine a good cleaning and make up some nectar.


  1. Ellen, I hardly ever comment but I never miss one of your posts!

    Just wanted to let you know I saw not one but two hummers this week. I *did* put out our feeder after I saw them...they buzzed me where the feeder used to be. That usually sounds like the returning birds fighting for territory but that seems like you said entirely too early.

    AND I saw a blue racer in my compost on Mon.! OF course it spooked me (always does) but s/he's welcome to every vole it finds.

    And I pulled off my first tick, yuck!

  2. Poor snake! But how fascinating, that color change and the explanation behind it. Who knew?

  3. Hummers and ticks, El? Oy vey! I guess I should take my advice and get those feeders up NOW! Not happy to hear about the ticks, though. Our wandering days through the fields may be at an end until next fall.

  4. Love your pictures and thoughts about the world. Reminds me of the apple trees "down in the valley" and around the edge of the field across from the house growing up in Hamilton.