Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wings in the Wildlife Garden

Harvest Time
Suddenly summer is on the wane, asters, goldenrods and cool season grasses are blooming. Time to look back on the summer that was. I garden for the birds and the bees. An all out effort for hummingbirds the last two years has made my yard a riot of Salvias and Lobelias.  

Salvia "Oxford Blue" A stunning plant!

Fennel, parsley and milkweeds are larval hosts for Swallowtails and Monarchs respectively, and as a volunteer for the Long Island Native Plant Initiative, I have spent the last four years adding many Long Island Ecotypic plants to the mix. To make room for these, I have extirpated aggressive and invasive plants that provided no wildlife value. If it doesn't attract buzz or flutter,  it wont grow here for long..

Salvia cocinea provides dramatic accents.
Was the yard a riot of butterflies? Not so much. Sadly there were many fewer than in previous years. I did see two species I had never seen in the garden before. There were however ,myriad bumble bees and other pollinators. A family of Yellow Jackets has also moved in..We'll see about that, I am trying to coexist, and so far so good.

Little Wood Satyr, Megisto cymela.  New to me and to the garden.

Great Spangled Fritillary, Speyeria cybele, a first for the garden.

Tiger Swallowtail, papilio glaucus, a little the worse for wear.

Black Swallowtails , Papilo polyxenes, breed in the garden every year.
Here, nectaring on Long Island ecotypic Asclepias tuberosa, aptly named "Butterfly Weed".

Silver Spotted Skipper, Epargyrus claruswere the only plentiful butterflies.

Even Cabbage Whites, Pieris rapae , were scarce this year.

Northern Pearl Crescent, Phyciodes selenis.

Only two Monarchs, Danus plexippus, were spotted, 
here nectaring here on native Liatris aspera.

Each one was precious. No Caterpillars this year.

The stars of this years garden were the two female Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, Archilocus colubrus, that visited almost daily during July and August. Mission Hummingbird was a success! Not only Lobeliaa and Salvias, but Cardinal Climber, Scarlet Runner Bean, Hyacinth Bean Vines, Monarda Jacob Cline and Zinnias were planted to attract them. I'd know they were coming by their staccato chirps and buzzing wings. Sometimes they would come right up to me.

Hummingbird attraction tower (top of an eight foot trellis).

By far the favorite was Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis.

Enjoying some Cardinal Climber nectar (Ipomea sloteri)

Red was the preferred color, but they were pretty in pink.

Enjoying a sip of Agastache species

There was one feeder, but natural foods were greatly preferred.

A favorite perch was the pea trellis.

This is not a Hummingbird..
Strawberry Clearwing Moth, Heymeris thysbe.

This is not a Hummingbird either, teeny, tiny Bufo americanus.

A young Bluejay, Cyanosita cristata.
Many fledged in the woods surrounding the garden, 

encouraged by plentiful feeders.

"All good things must end someday..

Autmn leaves must fall"...

Same time next year?
If people were superior to animals, they would take care of the world~ Winnie the Pooh

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Carmans River

Upper Carmans in the spring.

The Carmans river is one of the four largest rivers on Long Island, and is totally groundwater generated (no lakes). It is a ten mile ribbon of peaceful nature, slipping under Sunrise Highway unnoticed by the motoring hoards and finally emptying into the Great South Bay. The first eight miles are fresh water, the final two are estuary and experience the tidal effects of the bay. 
Passing under Sunrise Highway, upper river.

The river is bifurcated by Montauk Highway, and flows through a culvert under the highway. Therefor there is no boating access between the upper and lower portions of the river. The upper Carmans River is accessed through Southhaven County Park. 

The lower Carmans Rier flows through the Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, but there is no access through the refuge. Paddlers launch the lower river at a privately owned dock on Montauk Highway, which charges for parking,  rents canoes and kayaks, and gives tours.  Use is free however, for  Brookhaven Town residents. 

The lower Carmans River has its charms. There are secluded canals and byways with wildlife, but as the river heads towards the bay it becomes more and more open water, edged with Phragmites communis. Therefore, when I have time, I prefer the meandering upper river...

Lower Carmans River in the spring..

Wood Anemone (Anemone quinequefolia) along the banks.

Marsh Marigold (Calthra palustris)

Double Crested Cormorant enjoying the sunshine

Greater Yellowlegs hunting for lunch..
A family of Muskrats has recently moved in.
Side channel, heading towards the bay (iPOD).

The upper river passage requires two cars, or a willing spouse/friend to pick you up at Southhaven County Park. Stop in at the park boathouse, pay the 3$ per boat fee, and they will direct you to the launch site, a few miles up-river.

 Springtime on the Upper Carmans River...

The river is shallow, winding....

and mysterious for much of its length

Unfortunately, the pretty plant below is invasive. Had I known that at the time I would have extirpated it. It has since spread beyond a one person job...

Rorippa nasturtium aquatica, watercress.

The glory of this spring paddle, was finding the native Irises in bloom, 
pure serendipity, pure beauty!

Blue Flag Iris, Iris versicolor

Coastal Fetterbush, Lyonia lucida, was also blooming
Family Ericaceae.

As were swaths of True Forget Me Nots,
Myosotis scorpioides

They were still blooming in the summer.

A curious female Red Winged Blackbird

The male was upset.. I suspect a nest was nearby.

An Eastern Kingbird in the breeze..

A surprised deer

By the summer, the river has changed.The blackberries are ripening,
and Summer Sweet, Clethra alnifolia is blooming.

Swamp Milkweed,  Aesclepias incarnata

Ebony Jewel Wing Damselflies danced magically above the water.
It was mating season.

Calopteryx maculata, female 


Swamp Loosetrife has taken over the banks of the river.

Decodon verticillatus

Water Willow

Parasitic Common Dodder covers the Water willow in places..
Love Vine, Cuscuto gronovi
The banks are also lined with Water Pepper
Polygonum hydropiper
A Catbird watches me..
There is one small "rapid" beneath this bridge. Beware!

I surprise another deer..

As the river flows towards  the egress at South Haven Park, it begins to widen due to the dam and culvert which send it under Montauk Highway. There is a portage almost at the end, before the widest part is reached. Right before the portage, Mute Swans begin to be appear..

Beautiful, but considered invasive. 
Mute Swan, Cygnus olor. Originally from Europe

There was a movement to "cull" all Mute Swans on public waters on Long Island, but public outcry stopped it. Here is what the NYS Department of Conservation has to say about Mute Swans
Right before the take-out.
We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations~David Brower