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Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Misumena vatia on fading peony

It’s peak season for summer tourists in the garden.  Though the regulars are back, what’s lurking between the leaves and petals may surprise you.  The ghost crab spider found on this fading peony is a splendidly camouflaged ambush hunter. Visual feedback from its many eyes cause its color to change according to its surroundings.

Ghost crab spider lying in wait

Meanwhile, back on the hosta plant, this fly doesn’t seem to be buying the spider’s line… at least not this time.  Perhaps it’s already had its fill of summer romance.

"Come into my parlor" said the spider to the fly.

“Come into my parlor” said the spider to the fly.

A hoverfly is more forward in its approach to the last of the purple spiderworts to bloom.  Although this adult hoverfly is looking for a taste of nectar, in its larval stage it likely ate its share of aphids.

hoverfly and spiderwort

Fresh hydrangea blooms look inviting to a fruit fly in search of sustenance.

fly on hydrangea

Or could this visitor just be looking for a nice quiet place to rest its wings for a moment?

Rhagoletis fly on hydrangea

This fly is focused on the nectar of a yellow St John’s wort.

fly on st johns wort

A recently opened lily already has a visitor walking along a petal towards its inner sanctum.

fly on lily petal

Surely flowers must find the never ending flow of visitors tiring.  But even though they might be tempted to utter ‘Come again when you can’t stay quite so long,’ flowers benefit from insect activity for much of their pollination.  And that’s reason enough to tolerate visitors, even those who prey on other guests.

Ghost crab spider waving goodbye

Ghost crab spider waving goodbye

For more on the crab spider in Canada, see The Nature of the Hill’s Goldenrod Crab Spider post.  Cindy in the Swan Hills of Alberta has also included a cool video from Green Nature. 

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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dawn july 9 2013

Summer seems to take forever to arrive to this part of the world.  Sometimes love can feel like that too.  Despite the long anticipation, we often feel unprepared for its arrival.

This past week’s heat wave was overwhelming but it’s hard to complain after such a long wait.   The best we can do is embrace its offerings and enjoy each caress of summer warmth on our limbs.

The earth has received the embrace of the sun and we shall see the results of that love.
~ Sitting Bull

pink peony

Peonies in the garden open their inner hearts gladly.  How many of us dare to open our hearts so courageously to love?  The combination of warm rains and sparkling sunshine has increased the size and number of their blooms.  For some the abundance is a burden that can only be carried so long.  How easily we too can flounder under the weight of  all the responsibilities that accompany love.

peonies falling over

Wild Ragged Robin flowers seem to have a more modest response.  Their delicate petals stretch out in the sun as if to say ‘Here I am World.  Take me as I am.’  Perhaps the happiest souls among us are those who simply feel loved for themselves, just as they are.

pink ragged robin

On the seashore, wet purplish-pink Irish Moss sparkles in the sunshine.  If we are loved consistently and unconditionally, do we not begin to reflect love in the same way?

pink irish moss on shore

Love has its own time, its own season, and its own reasons for coming and going. You cannot bribe it or coerce it or reason it into staying. You can only embrace it when it arrives and give it away when it comes to you.
~ Kent Nerburn

new growth on partridgeberry bush

In the back woods, new pink growth emerges from a partridgeberry bush, ravaged by hungry wildlife earlier this spring.  Where there’s sunshine and warm rain, there’s the promise of an abundant harvest once the summer’s past.  Perhaps the greatest comfort of love’s embrace is hope for the future.

Text and photographs Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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The end of summer may be on the horizon, but there’s still some time left to cram some sparkle into the last week of August.  There are still opportunities to pick berries, squish sand between your toes and enjoy starlit nights outdoors.

As a child, golden rod flowers reminded me that my grasshopper and butterfly-catching days were coming to an end.  They still prompt me to make the most of the summer’s last days.

Yesterday my grandson and I picked blackberries in patches overlooking the ocean in the morning.  In the afternoon, we let the waves crash into us at the beach.  After nightfall, we explored a woodland path with flashlights.  It was both exhilarating and exhausting.  The best summer days are like that.

Some blackberries still haven’t ripened.

It could have been better.  I could have had the sense to not get my legs all scratched up by the blackberry brambles before I went into the stinging salt water.  That’s minor.  Scrapes, scratches and bug bites are all part of the outdoor summer experience.  But it could have also been worse.  Just before putting down my foot, I spotted a large, active wasps’ nest on the ground beneath an apple tree where we were attracted by some low hanging fruit.

Recently we tented in the yard, thrilled to witness the flight of bats from behind the screened door after sundown.   We didn’t see any bats last night, though we did get to see a shooting star.  The best summers are a series of moments such as these, strung together on a necklace that sparkles around our necks until the following June when we begin to gather gems for a new one.

A painted lady butterfly basks in the summer sunshine

Stalk butterflies, visit the beach or simply take in the wonders of the night sky, but do make the most of these last days of summer.  Cramming has never been so enjoyable.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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The combination of heat and humidity conspires to slow down even the most energetic among us.  During these late summer days, it’s difficult to find the motivation to take on new challenges.  This land snail, however, seemed pretty determined in its early morning attempt to cross the Salt Marsh Trail.

This brown caterpillar seemed to be on a similar quest.  Caterpillars are everywhere these days.  Unfortunately, not all of them are harmless…

The heat and humidity isn’t slowing these down as they gobble their way through the leaves.  Perhaps they’re just quenching their thirst by eating more fresh greens!  Unfortunately, they are damaging fruit trees and many others in their path.  Between their hunger and the dry summer, farmers are warning of rising food prices in the fall.

At least the birds have lots to eat.  A crab isn’t fast enough for a seagull, even in the morning mist.  Many crab shells litter the trail, remnants of seabirds’ breakfasts.

The shell of this green crab is still fairly fresh.  Its color will later lighten in the sunshine.  Though it appears intact, its insides have already been feasted upon by a hungry bird.

Summer’s slow days are perfect for the living to enjoy the warmth of the sun while it lasts.  Hurricane season is right around the corner.  With warm waters in the North Atlantic, who knows what lies ahead?

On these warm humid days, our view of the path before us is often clouded in fog.   Yet, there is magic in the mist, the least of which is the mystery of the unknown that lies ahead.  Perhaps the best we can expect to do is move slowly forward on the path set before us, simply putting one foot in front of the other while hoping for the best.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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Grasshoppers may only live four months, but they make the most of that time voraciously eating up anything green in their paths. I came across this unusually large one tucking into some mint in my herb garden. The warm sun and all the green leaves made it a perfect place for a hungry grasshopper to spend a summer morning dining at the all-you-can eat buffet.

This grasshopper isn’t the only creature eating its way through our dry summer months.  The leaves on the crab apple tree in the yard are looking worse every day due to the insatiable appetites of tussock moth caterpillars.

Although this is a colorful caterpillar with interesting markings, the adult stage moth is rather drab and gray.

Below,  the large light green leaves of a young striped maple show signs of being gobbled up by spotted apatelodes caterpillars.  This type of maple is also known as moose maple as it is a favorite of moose and deer as well.

This pretty spotted apatelodes caterpillar is not considered common here (for more information, see Spotted Apatelodes Caterpillar).  It will also transform itself into a dull gray moth.

spotted apatelodes caterpiillar on moose maple

Thankfully, many grasshoppers and caterpillars are eaten by birds, which are our best defense against these ravenous insects.  Offering water and nesting spots in our yards are two positive things we can do to ensure we keep hungry pests in check.

Although few would be reluctant to attract songbirds to their yards, other predators may be less welcome.  However, as unattractive as spiders may be to some, they do eat their fair share of caterpillars and grasshoppers, and  should at least be tolerated for the sake of their appetites.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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The seasons wait for no one.  In Nova Scotia, this is especially true with our springs and summers, which always seem too short. 

Looking back on a summer that flew by more quickly than most, I notice myself scrambling to find a few small things to take with me into the cooler seasons ahead.   There may not have been any long hot days at the beach to look back on, but that’s ok…

Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.

~  Winnie the Pooh 

Children playing in the sunshine, a warm breeze enjoyed while hanging out the laundry and flowers glimpsed coloring the wayside… these are the little things that will still provide warm memories of summer next January. 

Perhaps it’s their vulnerability that endears these small things to us.  Wild roses growing on the edge of a busy road…

Or tiny caterpillars crossing the trail…

Perhaps it’s because the blooming time for many small wild things is limited to just a couple of weeks a year.  

 Come the dark days of November, their presence will seem to have been as fleeting as that of a butterfly.

And the rising summer sun a brief kiss of light.

Is it so small a thing
To have enjoyed the sun,
To have lived light in the spring,
To have loved,
To have thought,
To have done?
~ Matthew Arnold

This post was inspired by Summertime written by Isabelle at Isathreadsoflife’s Blog.

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The past few days have been hot, hot, hot!  We could learn a thing or two from the wild birds.  They know how to keep their cool in hot weather.  They hydrate at the local watering hole …

Take the kids swimming…

And even risk looking silly by taking a refreshing plunge themselves.

If there isn’t a pool or a shore nearby, other options are always available.  This young male pheasant was photographed moments after enjoying a quick dust bath in the ashes of an old fire pit.  Apparently such baths can be quite cooling.  Who knew!  I was wondering what those little depressions in the dust were.  Birds hunker down in them before they fluff dust into their feathers.

Doesn’t he look cool and relaxed despite the fact that there was a cat on the prowl nearby?  A cat, I might add, that I’ve already caught twice having a dip in the bird bath.   I guess we’re all desperate to keep cool these days.  But I don’t think I’m desperate enough to have a dust bath.  Not yet at least.

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Warnings are posted along the Salt Marsh Trail to remind people to stay away from the poison ivy.  This plant causes extreme itching on contact with the skin of both humans and animals.  Swellings, bumps and blisters may follow.

Poison ivy plants are characterized by green leaves arranged in groups of three.  They look fairly harmless and are either found by themselves in a large mass or hidden among other plants.   Along the Salt Marsh Trail, they are right at the edge of the path in some places, making it very easy for an unsuspecting child or dog to brush up against.

This year’s especially wonderful growing season has enabled most plants to grow earlier in the season and larger than usual.  Poison ivy is no exception.  Please exercise caution along the trail and in the woods as you enjoy the outdoors this summer. 

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It’s not easy keeping cool when the heat and humidity conspire to drain you of your energy and motivation.

Snowshoe hares know how to make the most of the dog days of summer by relaxing in the clover. They’re not running and hopping around as much as they did earlier this summer. 

My yard is a haven for them as I don’t have a dog.  Hares know how to stay cool by winding down activities and keeping a low profile.

In ancient times, the dog star Sirius was considered responsible for the sweltering heat.  Back then, its coincidental rising with the sun in July and August was thought to bring on the worst in men and beasts.

But there are many ways to tame the beast within during these ravaging hot days…

Taking a moment to pause and smell the roses is always a good way to refresh yourself through scent and beauty.  The wild rose bush is in bloom in my yard.  With its single layer of petals, it resembles the Dog rose (Rosa canina) often used in heraldry.

Even if you don’t have roses nearby, so many other beautiful flowers are in bloom at this time of year, both in gardens and in the wild.

Certainly one of the best ways to beat the heat is to take a stroll along the seashore.  Morning and evening walks are especially refreshing. 

Collecting seashells along the shore is a quiet activity sure to take the focus off the concerns of the day.  

Over the years I’ve collected a variety of Dogwinkles (Nucella lapilus) both at Rainbow Haven and Silver Sands beaches.  Worn smooth by the waves and bleached pale by the sun, they even feel like summer as you roll them between your fingers.

Of course the best way to be refreshed during the dog days of summer is to take a plunge in the water, be it a stream, lake or the sea.  Nature beckons.

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Jellyfish are not an uncommon sight along Nova Scotia’s seashores in July.  Yet, their translucent colors tend to blend in well with the reddish brown seaweed on the beach and are easy to miss if you’re not watching where you step.

By the time they’re washed ashore, jellyfish have lost most of their magnificent bodily form.  My best guess for the one shone beached above is that it is a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata).  In the drawing at left, I’ve attempted to show what it may have looked like while floating in the ocean.

Jellyfish are not fish at all, but rather marine animals without backbones that reveal a radial symmetry.  They possess tentacles with stinging cells that allow them to capture their prey:  zooplankton and small fish.  Larger jellyfish will also eat smaller ones.

Leatherback sea turtles are attracted to our waters in search of jellyfish during the summer months.  Seabirds and large fish also eat jellyfish.

Lion’s Mane jellyfish enjoy our cooler waters and tend to not venture into warmer Atlantic seas.  They vary greatly in size.  The largest ever, with a diameter of 7-1/2 feet, was washed ashore in Massachussetts towards the southern tip of its range.

Though its sting is not fatal, this type of jellyfish and others, if found ashore or swimming nearby, should not be touched.  Their stings can still cause severe pain with reactions dependent on the size, age and health of the victim.  Sea turtles and their other predators don’t seem to be affected by them.

Below, a seagull dines on crab near the spot where the jellyfish was sighted at Rainbow Haven Beach.

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Spruce trees are silhouetted against the rising sun at Rainbow Haven beach.  Over the years, these trees have endured, despite the salt spray and hurricane force winds.  Like many other trees on the Eastern seaboard, evergreens have shown accelerated growth in recent years.

The lighter, brighter green of this year’s growth is especially remarkable.  Scientists attribute increased growth to the following three factors:

  • Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • Warmer temperatures
  • An extended growing season

All of the above factors point to climate change as the underlying cause.

Though older trees on the landscape are a sign of strength and endurance, new ones are representative of hope.  While the strange and severe weather often attributed to climate change is a concern, accelerated tree growth is welcomed.

The forest is alive with new life in its many forms.  Below, a witch’s broom growing on a balsam fir, is light yellow-green.

The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

For more information on Witches’ Brooms, see Witches’ Brooms in Winter.

For more information on accelerated tree growth see Science Daily.

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Like a golden eye, the sun rises above the horizon.  Summer is still almost a month away, but already the warm sunshine is drawing crowds to the beach to bask in its glow at midday.   Victoria Day traffic near Rainbow Haven Provincial Park was crazy enough.  What will it be like by Canada Day? 

Places where the sea meets the sky refresh the spirit and provide an escape from the worries of the world.  The appeal is universal.  Some of us just prefer to avoid the crowds and take our refreshment earlier in the day than others. 

Whether on the sea, a lake or in the marsh, sparkling waters make it easy to forget the busy world that’s left behind.  The sound of waves lapping on the shore quenches our thirst for calm.

Last year, summer in Nova Scotia was dismal and short.  Could this year’s beautiful spring be a promise of a splendid summer ahead?  For now, it’s enough to enjoy the days just one by one, making the most of each opportunity to feel the warmth of the sun on one’s face and happily squint one’s eyes while gazing at sparkling waters.

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.
~ Celia Thaxter

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