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Sharing Dining Turf

red squirrelRed squirrels aren’t usually keen on sharing their dining room with others. The presence of other squirrels and birds is seldom tolerated, especially when black oil sunflower seeds are on the menu.

snowshoe hare in spring coatBut sometimes, on very rare occasions, a special someone comes along whose company can actually enhance the dining experience.  Who knew snowshoe hares had more than just an interest in large families to bring to the conversation, or a palate for fine seeds?

snowshoe hare and red squirrelSnow continues to cover so much of the ground this spring that animals seem more open to eating outside their usual fare and tolerating the presence of other species.  These two have become regular dining partners near the back deck.  I wonder if they’ll continue their ‘friendship’ once the snow cover is gone and dandelions are ripe for the eating.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2015

hopping down the bunny trailWith so much snow still in the woods, it doesn’t look much like Spring here.  Thankfully, the Easter Bunny hopped by this morning to remind us that not just Easter, but Spring too is on its way. Its coat of blended tawny brown and white indicates the lengthening daylight hours.  Surely all that extra sunlight will help us see grass again soon.

white tailed deerIt’s been a rough winter for wildlife.  Relentless snowfalls have covered food sources and made movement on all types of terrain difficult.  Deer have been frequent visitors in the yard, looking for anything edible.

snowshoe hareNot all creatures are as lucky as the snowshoe hares to be able to leap with ease on top of the snow.  Bobcats haven’t been able to keep up with them in deep snow and have suffered the consequences in their dwindling numbers.  With their small prey buried deep in tunnels beneath the hard snow cover, snowy owls have also suffered.

Sometimes hard winters make it seem like warmer days will never come again, especially when snow continues to fall for weeks after the vernal equinox.

Hopefully, the real spring is just around the corner.

The deep roots never doubt spring will come.

~ Marty Rubin

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2015

Bee-loved Clover

bumblebee in field of clover

The lawn is laden with clover this week, offering an all-you-can-eat bumblebee buffet.  The bumblebees’ activity is so quick and their movement so constant (they’re as busy as bees you know) that almost every photograph I took of them was blurred.  It was also a challenge to not step on the bees as I attempted to photograph them while they worked.

bumblebee showing pollen basket on clover

As they travel from clover floret to floret seeking nectar, female worker bumblebees fill the pollen baskets on their hind legs.  By the time these baskets are considered full by the bee, each might contain up to a million grains of pollen.  Imagine the care and hard work required to gather so many grains!  This pollen will then be carried home to feed the next generation of bees.

clover floret

Due to their long tongues, bumblebees are the insects most capable of reaching the nectar hidden within the folds of the clover floret.  Bumblebees pay for the pollen grains they gather by cross-pollinating the many clover florets they visit.  They’re hairy little creatures, magnets for any pollen they encounter as they go about their busy work.  Later, back at home, they’ll use special combs on their legs to carefully clean off any pollen that’s left lingering on their bodies.

bumblebee on clover

One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care.  Such is the nature of bees…
~ Leo Tolstoy

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

A Prickly Visitor

young porcupine

One evening this week, a young porcupine was discovered meandering on the lawn in the backyard.  I’ve seen small porcupines on the lawn before, but never so close to the house. At first glance, this little one appeared soft and fluffy, like a cuddly stuffed toy one would pick up to snuggle. Its manner was certainly docile, but appearances can be deceiving. Longer hairs hide the quills on a porcupine’s backside, especially when viewed from the front.

fluffy porcupine

Porcupines are born, only one at a time, in April or May, after a gestational period of about seven months.  Even though it’s able to defend itself once its quills dry, a few hours after birth, the single young porcupine stays close to its mother for the first summer.

porcupine side view

Once it sensed our presence on the back deck, this little one raised its backside and headed towards the woods.

porcupine tail

Its white tail swayed back and forth as it went on its way, likely back to the arms of its awaiting mother.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

sweating shelf fungus

Come into the backwoods and I’ll show you something absolutely magical.  Fungi abound in this neck of the woods, but this bracket fungus is doing something I’ve not seen others do.  It’s crying.

sweat on fungus
These tears may look like raindrops, but they cover only the fungus, not the surrounding area, except for where they’ve dripped below and discolored the moss.  Present on one of the oldest, tallest spruce trees in the yard,  one can only wonder what could have caused tears to appear on this Red-belted polypore.

Old spruce tree and Red-belted polypore

Old spruce tree and Red-belted polypore

Red-belted polypores  are thought to hold anti-bacterial, anti-tumor and anti-inflammatory properties by native and oriental cultures.  If this is so, can you imagine what pharmacological mysteries their exudate droplets hold?  Since this old spruce tree reigns in a stand of smaller firs and magical  Rowan and Elderberry trees, some whimsical wonder must surely be at the bottom of this.

fairy tree entrance

Could this bracket fungus serve as an awning to a fairy door entrance into another realm?  An awning, perhaps, which sheds tears of joy when visitors arrive on the doorstep and tears of sadness when they depart.  One can only wonder.

fungal awning above fairy tree door

For more information on bracket fungi and their exudate droplets, see Red-Belted Bracket Fungi

This post is written in response to Karma’s ‘In Want of Whimsy’ Challenge.  Deadline for submissions is June 22nd.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

Bunny Burial

child with hare

The dead hare was in his arms before I even knew it was there on the forest floor.  It looked so much like a stuffed plush toy.  How could my grandson resist picking it up and cuddling it?  The bunny had not long been dead, with no sign of trauma on its little body.

still hare

It was a young hare, a leveret, with small  ears and soft fur, similar to many others I’ve found and buried over the years.  This time it was different though.  I had a small child as my witness and I wondered how he would react to the bunny being buried in the ground.

Snowshoe hare legs at rest

Snowshoe hare legs at rest

We talked about what might have happened. Perhaps a neighbor’s cat had killed it for sport.  Surely a bobcat or fox would have eaten it or carried it off to its den.

bunny burial

We dug a hole for it in a place in the yard where I’ve buried small bunnies in the past after finding their limp bodies on the lawn.  After gently placing it in the hole, we covered the bunny with earth and placed a stone on top to deter wild animals from digging it up.

Nature is the great teacher.  It shows us how death comes to all, even the young and beautiful.  We may not understand why, but we can still show reverence for all God’s creatures, both in life and death.

Let parents then bequeath to their children not riches but the spirit of reverence.
~ Plato

hare near front steps

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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