Thursday, May 21, 2009

Random pond shot from this morning. Yesterday I saw a muskrat in there; let's imagine it's lurking somewhere in this picture, out of sight. I'm also seeing a pair of mallard ducks quite often -- maybe they're nesting nearby? You could just sit by the pond all day and watch things happen if it weren't for the ants. Have I ever mentioned the ANTS??? They're European fire ants (from Hell), and in any square metre at Beechwood there must be roughly a trillion of them. They're small, they're red, and they are very, very angry. Here's one going about its business on a tree stump:

When the weather warms up in the spring these ants start waking up, or defrosting, or whatever it is they do. If you can get there very early in the day, while it's still cool, you have a chance to get some work done, but before long the ants will notice you and start crawling up your pant legs, down your collar, and into your sleeves. The bites sting, which I could live with, and swell and itch for days, which gets tiresome quickly. (This seems to get worse as the summer progresses: either the ants get more potent or I get more sensitized. I have a bite on my wrist right now that's actually not bad at all.)

The first thing I do when I arrive at the site is tuck my pant legs into my socks and put on gloves with long suede cuffs that cover my long sleeves. As I'm pulling garlic mustard I stop frequently to check my shoes: if there are only one or two ants I just stamp my feet and get on with it, but often I discover I'm swarming with the red devils and I have to shake/stamp/flick them all off. If they stayed at ground level it would be bad enough, but they climb up plants so they can look you in the eye and utter death threats. That means you're always brushing against them, and they get in your hair and down your neck and pretty soon you're waking up screaming and twitching at night ... ok, it's not quite that bad yet, but the ants are a problem. There's no danger that this lovely wetland is going to become a picnic area any time soon.

I'm rethinking what I said about the second deer I saw being the mate of the first one. I made some assumptions:

a) two bucks wouldn't be hanging out together

b) females could have some form of antlers

Neither of those things seems to be necessarily true, according to some websites I've perused lately. Some sources say does don't have antlers, others say there's a possibility. Experts reading here, feel free to weigh in! The first deer I saw was undeniably male (not that I was particularly checking him out, but you know how guys are about scratching themselves ... some things become obvious ...) The second deer was smaller and more timid, but it did have definite antlers. Here's something else interesting I learned:

"Males and occasionally females have antlers, which are made from bone and are shed annually, usually mid-winter (new ones are grown in the spring). It may be surprising then that antlers are rarely found in the woods. Since they are rich in calcium and other nutrients, antlers are usually eaten by animals such as porcupines, rabbits and rodents soon after they are shed."

Huh! A nice crunchy snack.

If you want to know more about deer antlers:

Garlic mustard update: things are looking pretty good by the pond, and I've moved into "the interior" at the north end of the site, where I have to say there's an awful lot of the stuff. Some days I feel quite confident about removing it all, and other days I realize that I haven't got a chance. Oh well, everyone needs a hobby.

Finally, more fungus pictures. Again, the experts are welcome to supply the name of this thing. If you look carefully you'll see a few small dark beetles and one of our ant friends, but they blend in quite well:

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Your mushroom might be Dryads Saddle (Polyporus, squamosus). It has a few look alikes though so don't take my word for it. If it is however, you can eat it!