Thursday, May 18, 2017

Do you know your home range? #phenology

While walking one of the dogs a little while ago, a SUV drove past us and a hundred yards or so down the road turned into a neighbor's driveway. Out of the small woodlot North of that driveway popped a whitetail deer. She stood in the middle of the road, staring at the dog and I. The SUV continued up the drive and I doubt if anyone in it noticed the deer. The dog I was walking had already turned into our drive when the doe appeared so I believe I was the only observer wondering how long the deer was going to stand still. The answer was about 10 to 15 seconds. Then she started her stiff-legged, bouncy semi-trot across and up the road and into the woods. She was far enough away I could see if she looked pregnant. About a month or six weeks from now is when I expect to start seeing spots in front of my eyes as fawns begin to learn their way around.

roadside whitetail in Autumn
roadside whitetail in Autumn
Photo by J. Harrington

Being able to enjoy, with some frequency, observations of wildlife is one of the reasons we live where we do. It also helps explain why we're more lax than advisable in the application of deer repellents. Living with nature helps teach us how to share, although the share we retain is often less than we might hope for, the alternative would too frequently be a diminished, sometimes severely, local population of species we enjoy. Have you noticed that nature tries to provide substantial redundancy in her systems?

mid-June fawn
mid-June fawn
Photo by J. Harrington

There are many pollinators and many different plants that need pollination. Rarely do we encounter a monoculture in a natural environment. Variety and redundancy are healthier and more resilient. I doubt that natural systems support "lean supply chains," although often there's just in time, or almost in time, delivery. Bee populations are reported to be affected by neonicotinoids. Monarch butterflies are reported to lack sufficient milkweed to thrive, but planting some milkweed species contributes to monarch's problems. Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources is investigating how better to work with local communities to keep whitetail herds, and habitat, healthier.

My major interest in phenology is not so much how existing patterns are changing due to climate change, but to become more aware of the relationships among patterns, such as goldfinches late season breeding so thistle seeds are available. It helps me feel more at home and lets me begin to recognize my own home range, my place in the world and who my neighbors really are, human and other.

Heaven for Stanley



Mark Doty, 1953


For his birthday, I gave Stanley a hyacinth bean,
an annual, so he wouldn’t have to wait for the flowers.
He said, Mark, I have just the place for it!
as if he’d spent ninety-eight years
anticipating the arrival of this particular vine.
I thought poetry a brace against time,
the hours held up for study in a voice’s cool saline,
but his allegiance is not to permanent forms.
His garden’s all furious change,
budding and rot and then the coming up again;
why prefer any single part of the round?
I don’t know that he’d change a word of it;
I think he could be forever pleased
to participate in motion. Something opens.
He writes it down. Heaven steadies
and concentrates near the lavender. He’s already there.

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