Monday, April 25, 2016

Bearly there #phenology, seasonal surprises

Last night our neighborhood bear arrived uninvited, left tracks in the mud behind the screened patio, left mud prints on the patio screens, bent the bird feeder rod in front of the house and stole the seed feeder. That last one is a first around here. Other years we've found paw prints in early May, had a visitor at the front feeder midday in June and had the feeders on the back deck munched from on a hot August night. (It wasn't Brother Love's Travelin' Salvation Show, I'm sure.) This kind of "pattern" makes it hard to figure out when it's time to make seasonal adjustments. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources sent out an advisory this year in late March, about a month ago, that bears were becoming active. I don't mind the loss of the bird seed, but having an entire "Droll Yankee" feeder hauled off who knows where is a pain.

bear paw prints in mud
bear paw prints in mud
Photo by J. Harrington

muddy bear paw prints on screen
muddy bear paw prints on screen
Photo by J. Harrington

bent feeder rod with feeder missing
bent feeder rod with feeder missing
Photo by J. Harrington

Anyhow, as soon as I finish today's posting, I'll move the trash can into the garage for the Summer. I'll also start bringing in the remaining feeders each night to dissuade deck visits. Country living is an interesting combination of fascination and aggravation. But it makes it easier to keep track of seasonal developments like active bears and ferns fiddle-heading. While looking for the missing bird feeder, I noticed this years ferns today are about the height and level of unfurledness that they were in early April back in 2012.

fiddle headed ferns
fiddle headed ferns
Photo by J. Harrington

This makes me think about how many years it takes to develop patterns of what's "normal" and what's an outlier in phenology. More than one person's lifetime, even if that was all spent in one place, which seems true for fewer and fewer of us. That thought makes me wonder if there's any guidance on "quick and dirty" ways to get to know a place for non-tourists who may want to feel at home in a new locale. I've read my way through several books on Minnesota through the seasons, have lived here for more than a generation, and am still getting frequently surprised.

The Truro Bear

A poem by Mary Oliver


There’s a bear in the Truro woods.
People have seen it - three or four,
or two, or one. I think
of the thickness of the serious woods
around the dark bowls of the Truro ponds;
I think of the blueberry fields, the blackberry tangles,
the cranberry bogs. And the sky
with its new moon, its familiar star-trails,
burns down like a brand-new heaver,
while everywhere I look on the scratchy hillsides
shadows seem to grow shoulders. Surely
a beast might be clever, be lucky, move quietly
through the woods for years, learning to stay away
from roads and houses. Common sense mutters:
it can’t be true, it must be somebody’s
runaway dog. But the seed
has been planted, and when has happiness ever
required much evidence to begin
its leaf-green breathing?

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