Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Planties in a bunch

One of the things I relish most are my memories of seeing animals being fallible - like squirrels falling out of trees or beavers tripping. Maybe it's a bit odd (or worse, sadistic), but my enjoyment is in watching the animals suffer, but the reminder that they are animals just like us, prone to error, confusion, mistakes, emotions, and the drive to struggle on.

My powers of empathy extend first to mammals, next on to other vertebrates, and then invertebrates. I can connect with insects, but my connection is not as immediate and often includes a slight sense of awkward self-awareness around empathizing with this clade. My chain of empathy often forgets the plant kingdom (John Berger wrote that we like to look at animals because, unlike them, when we look at them we are aware that they are looking at us in the same way. But the other day while taking photos with one of the kids at Crow's Path, we spotted a most peculiar plant that reminded me that the struggles of life extend to all living creatures.

Unlike most trilliums (trillia?) that push their way through the duff by pushing leaves out of the way, this unfortunate soul got stuck trying to rend its way through a sugar maple leaf. It got all twisted and couldn't quite make it to the unfurling stage. I often see this pattern with Canada mayflower. The plant presses on with development, flowering in this instance, despite the jumble of leaves. Trillium are perennial so potentially the hindrance to photosynthesis will not matter much this year - perhaps next year it may suffer slightly, leaf out later, grow a weaker/shorter stem, etc. Only time will tell.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The littlest of leaves...

White ash
I've so enjoyed watching all the buds leaf out this year. Each species has its own way of opening up to the warm spring weather - they unfurl, burst, surreptitiously emerge, bolt, elongate, crack, pop, and slither open. What a joy to watch.

Common buckthorn
Speckled alder

Sugar maple


Maple-leaf viburnum
Striped maple

Green ash

White pine

Bitternut hickory

Staghorn sumac

Glossy buckthorn

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


Woodchucklings are on their way. Unfortunately. Despite being obnoxiously adorable, woodchucks are the three-year running champs of destroying our garden. We spotted these little critters on April 17 mating. It doesn't bode well or our veggies this year.

The actual mating process seemed rather uneventful, other than a few high pitched chirrups, but there was a rather long process of nuzzling, smelling, and coyly playing with one another that preceded copulation.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Signs of spring

It's been an exciting couple o weeks here in Burlington. In addition to the dramatic sighting of a moose in our yard!!, we've had a number of other visitors. This morning a catbird was singing. Yesterday, a house wren. And persistent throughout has been the large flock of juncos and white-throated sparrows (some chipping sparrows mixed in as well). 
Female dark-eyed junco (females have more brown on sides than males and are less bicolor)
Chipping sparrow

The aptly named white-throated sparrow. Song is a whistle-y "Oh Sweet Canada Canada Canada"