Journal for May 17, 2010

The May weather has finally turned warm, and everything is intensely green.  This is the view down the valley from Big View Prairie.

My project for the next few weeks is to girdle birches and aspen around the edges of the remnant prairies.  Both these tree species are native, but they invade prairies and make shade that discourages the prairie plants.  So every year I try to cut back the trees and enlarge the prairies a little more.

These are the trees I worked on this week – birches along the lower edge of Big View Prairie.  They grow along a steep rocky bank, so it’s hard to get to them, and even harder to keep my balance while I’m working.

I found some little green orchids under the trees.  They’re called Long-bracted Green Orchids, or sometimes Frog Orchids.

Frog Orchid flowers

I also found a beautiful little purple fungus, growing on birch logs.

The west-facing slope of Indian Grass Point is looking really good this year – lots of flowers. A few years ago this was covered with brush – mostly Prickly Ash and Gray Dogwood.   I’ve been working on clearing it – a hard job since it’s a nearly vertical slope.  I do most of the work by crawling up the hill on my knees.  This is the most recently cleared part of the slope – it’s much steeper than it looks in this picture.

Some of the plants growing here now are

Wild Columbine

Balsam Ragwort

Starry False Solomon’s Seal

Robin’s Plantain

And Blue-eyed Grass.  Blue-eyed Grass is usually blue

But this hill has some plants with white flowers.

Some of the other flowers I’m seeing this week – in other places are

Downy Paintbrush

and Common Cinquefoil – a common weedy (native) species that has a beautiful little yellow flower.

I’ve seen a few interesting bugs this week too – now that it’s warmer there are more of them around.

This is a species of Soldier Beetle called a Two-lined Leatherwing.

This is a pair of mating Craneflies (Tipula disjuncta).  It’s one of the few Cranefly species in North America in which the male and female look different.  (Thank you to Chen Young for the id and the information.)

And this is a Bee Fly.  It’s actually a fly that resembles a small bee.

I confirmed that we have Savannah Sparrows this week.  I’ve been seeing them for a few years in our planted prairie fields, but have never been sure before.

Savannah Sparrow

Last week I saw fisher for the first time.  Mike saw one once before, and we’ve caught photos of them on our remote wildlife camera, but it was fun to really see one.   They’re large animals in the same family as weasels, with long bodies and bushy tails.  When I startled it, it ran a little way through the woods, and then hopped up on a dead log, stood up on its hind legs and watched me for about 30 seconds.  Just as I reached for my camera, it took off.

The Wild Lupine and Indian Paintbrush near the house are all blooming.  The colors are especially vivid in the afternoon sun.