Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Our back yard

Let me repeat--what a boon the internet is for info-junkies like us.

For instance, our back yard has a lot of dragonflies and with the internet I can discover factoids about them including their names, like Eastern Pondhawk and Blue Dasher, the most common ones. Still haven't been able to identify the reddish one. Maybe Needham's Skimmer. The names are less important than their voracious appetite such that we have virtually no problem with mosquitoes.

There are about 6,000 species of dragonflies, most of them found in tropics. While the king of the jungle, the lion, is successful on about 40% of their chases, the dragonfly is 95% efficient as a predator eating small insects, flies and, occasionally, other dragonflies. Their wing construction and flight ability is remarkable and they are among the fastest insects, clocked at as much as 36 miles per hour.

When mowing the grass/weeds to the lake the other day, I flushed a snapping turtle. About 14" in diameter, perhaps, making it in the 20-25 year old category? They can live for 50 years, have no natural enemies as adults...except humans. There is some concern about the amount of commercial harvesting of snappers to satisfy the appetite for millions of pounds to China. No wonder the mallard ducklings disappeared this spring. In our lake, the snappers are a healthy part of the system.

Seems as though the nutria have decided to go elsewhere after I live-trapped three juveniles and an adult. As I think I have mentioned before, they are imports from South America, terribly destructive to ponds, lakes and wetlands and have no natural enemies here.

I can co-exist with snapping turtles (very shy in the water, quite aggressive on land) but I sure do hate snakes. After the incident with the common water snake on the patio (Linda saved me, "broomed" it off into the lake), we have had no others. I still say that thing was the size of an Anaconda, but I guess it was only a 3-4 footer, harmless and just trying to warm itself in the early spring.

Bullfrogs serenade us at night. Bluebirds entertain us by day (the bluebird numbers have declined drastically as the starlings and sparrows, both introduced species, compete for nesting sites and destroy the eggs and young of the bluebird).

Jerry DeFrance complained one time about the ease of growing just about anything in Portland compared to the difficulty they encounter in Jackson Hole. "You just throw damned near anything over your shoulder and it will grow." Should be the same here, but my efforts at landscaping have resulted in several dead (I say, D-E-D) specimens. Can't figure out the drainage issues with the very high water table and clay, and some plants don't like wet feet.

So it is nearly the end of July, made one trip away from here to the Outer Banks just a couple of hours away. Hope to soon take a weekend swing up the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. A fraternity brother lives in Delaware (the states here are about the size of counties in Nebraska, most of them smaller than Cherry county), close to Ocean City, Maryland. On the Atlantic shore. Hope to see him on that trip.

Matt and Jenny made plans to visit Labor Day. We have open invitations to others, and hope to see lots of folks in Virginia. Give us an excuse to see some of the rich history and other attractions. Y'all come. Maybe I'll even find something to grow in the landscape plots by then.

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