Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Butterflies, Black Raspberries, and Nests

Five years ago I discovered a Milkweed gone to seed and retrieved some, because without Milkweed there are no Monarch Butterflies. And how crummy a world would it be without these marvelous migrating butterflies, right? I stuffed a wad of the fluff jacketed seeds into my pocket and headed for the back yard. Arriving, I glanced left, glanced right, checked for observers, looking furtive I'm sure, and feeling weirdly guilty. These plants are frowned upon by some. They do have the word WEED in their name after all ,which sparks innate prejudice automatically for some. Quickly I pulled the seeds out of my pocket, scratched up the soil, and poked them into one of my mother's flowerbeds. Stood up innocently and then I waited. I waited for years. Yes, the seeds "took". They grew. They continued to reappear season after season. Their sturdy taproots, no doubt growing deeper and deeper. And I continued to wait and watch. Not yet.

I've got the Milkweed. Where are the Monarch Butterflies? I'd begun to wonder if they'd ever appear.

Until today, that is. There she is working the blossoms. And then another Monarch appears and flutters to the flowers. The first Monarch, flies towards the second, they flutter into a quick double spiral up, up, into the Maple tree---and gone.

But before long there is that familiar flash of orange back again, flying about her business, amongst the flowers. Finally!

Eleanor Tauber is back in the swing of things. She's back investigating Central Park and ran across a tree covered in Red Admiral Butterflies in Central Park.

The Raspberries are ripening and they are everywhere. And I don't mean just in people's gardens. Any unmown edge of hedgerow, or woodland, overgrown path or road's edge is bursting with one of our most successful native berries.
In the city, I often look at those little one inch quarter or eighth of a pint of raspberries wrapped snugly in plastic and marked $2.98 or $3.98. Geez, that seems a touch pricey, doesn't it?
Okay, they are big, and plump and look juicy but goodness, there are hardly any berries in the package. And the drenching depth of flavor that I remember just doesn't seem to be there. Is it the fact that my frugal soul has impossible expectations for something that costs that much or perhaps those store, showcase berries have been bred for looks as opposed to flavor? It's all just too unsatisfying

I admit it. I've always been a berry picking maniac. And living away from berry bushes has increased the tingle I feel at the sight of a good glaucous bloom on a berry bursting with juice. Add the fact that they're FREE, you can watch and listen to birds at the same time, you tromp through woodlands, spot new things, get startled by everything from deer to nesting Cooper's Hawks, so where's the downside?
Well some people can't handle a few bramble pricks and find the fact that their hands, their clothes and most probably their mouths, if your consume while picking which is the only way to go, become a little sticky and a lot purple is a price too high to pay. Weenies! Where's their joy of the hunt?

What's any of that to compare with the bounty of buckets of berries? Fresh on ice cream, cooked into syrup for pancakes, homemade jellies, jams, pies, buckles, juice, and wine? Not a thing.

A mystery nest. Do you know what species built it?

Coming back from berry picking, what should we find lying in the driveway? In a high wind, this uninhabited nest came down out of a Spruce. The bowl has a two inch diameter. There are a few tidbits of plastic and man made materials but for the most part it is well woven and sturdy

A Cardinal's nest that was brought down by the same wind.
As opposed to a second in the area. Yes, all those pieces of plastic were the sides of the nest. It was a very fragile thing whose sides were at least 70% plastic with 3 small and 1 larger piece of Birch bark poked into the base along with the plastic. I say base as the 4 inch bottom is hardly a bowl and makes a very poor nest. It fell apart quite readily and fell off it's moorings. Were the birds fooled in some way to believe it was solid? Was it a dearth of their natural nesting materials that contributed to the problem? Is plastic substituting for bark? After a look around I see, bark isn't easy to come by in this neighborhood. Things are extremely tidy. No stray bits of anything lying about on the tidy lawns and as far as I know the Birch a few feet away from the large bush the Cardinals had chosen for their nest is the only one in the neighborhood.

Did the lack of bark or other natural nesting materials contribute to the nest's fragility? What's happening in your area?
Donegal Browne

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