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Fauna

Grass has been growing here for about a month.  Some meadow grasses already have flowers.  So what’s the status of the invasives?

Knotweed got an early but feeble start. I’ve pulled about 30 shoots, none of them more than a foot, many only a few inches. That’s all currently above ground.

That might be Black swallow wort in the photo. It must not get going until later in the season because the photo shows the entire crop to date. Wait, I can’t say that. The photo shows all the shoots of that plant that I came across in the areas that had had Black swallow wort last year. When I looked online for photos to use as comparisons, I found my own shots!

Black swallow wort?

And, dear reader, I know you are waiting for the update on the Bittersweet! Rest assured, Bittersweet is still in the meadow. But, it has not been this absent since it began invading the field more than two decades ago. It is most prevalent in those places in the north east section where I could not spray herbicide because it was too tightly interlaced with desirable broadleaved plants.

It is also coming back in relatively greater strength than in other parts of the meadow in an area I hand pulled last April to the south of the path to to the former bee yard. Does this suggest that hand pulling is less successful than spraying?

A patch to the south of the Barberry heather had a minor resurgence as well. That area was another where I had to be careful not to spray desirable plants so I had used herbicide extremely sparingly. This spot, and other areas that did get some herbicide, show something else as well: many of the youngest leaves of the Bittersweet are wilting. is the wilt from a lack of rain or is the plant systemically weakened? Maybe I’ll know after a rain, although I am cutting back as many shoots as I can so I am reducing my ability to tell. I want to keep my need for further spraying to a minimum. I also want to keep after the Bittersweet before it further tangles with the plants I want to preserve.

Youngest Bittersweet leaves wilting

So, on first blush, the herbicide treatment seems to have been a resounding success. And wildlife appears not to have been too disturbed. These butterflies were mating while I snipped around them. They were using a old, cut Bittersweet stem but note the strawberries flowering below them. (These butterflies are orange when they open their wings; I better learn to identify these meadow residents!)

The poison ivy seems undaunted, although it collapsed immediately when sprayed last summer. The dewberry is debating how to fill some of the gaps in its network of foot-snaggers. I’m confident it will find brilliant new routes.

Everyone is saying it is going to be a bad year for ticks. No winter freeze to knock back the population. Here’s my support for the observation, starting with one tick taped to an oyster shell fragment.

The rest of my evidence, about 15 others, represent no more than two hours worth of collecting in the tiny area around the cold frame outside the vegetable garden.

I have not heard any comments on tick habitat preference changes yet there seem to be more in the most heavily cultivated part of the yard, namely the vegetable garden, than in the meadow where their vectors, the deer, roam. So far this year, I have found only one tick in the meadow. But every time I go near the vegetable garden, I’ll spy a dozen.

The deer eat the berries off the winterberries, robbing the robins of a spring snack. But on a rainy day last week, the white-throated sparrows jumped up and down under the agastache to get its seeds to fall and seemingly had a treat. They have not returned on dry days, although the agatache still have lots of seeds that could be consumed. The rain made picture taking impossible, but today I photographed the agastache themselves.

When these two mauraders became aware of me, they disappeared so swiftly and silently that I am not sure what exit route they used. They did not head off into the meadow, so it must have been through one of the breaks in the miscellaneous, non-continuous fences beside the guest house.

Rain required a flash but that allows you to find the deer through the reflections in their eyes.

Each night for the past week, deer have been in the garden. Their roof prints in newly reseeded patches in the lawn and growing numbers of piles of glistening scat in the meadow would be enough to give them and their repeat visits away. But I’ve seen them too. Late one afternoon, while raking leaves, I thought I was being watched. A doe and two fawns were deciding whether I posed a threat to them as they pass though the meadow. Jiff saw the same troika one morning.

The hoof prints and the scat might be a tolerable nuisance. But not what they’ve done to the shrubs is most dismaying. First they ate the leaves off the oakleaf hydrangeas. Then they eat the leaves of the button bushes and the blueberries. I covered these with black netting. They moved on to chomp away at the viburnum denatum and the dogwoods up to the height they can reach. They nibbled off the tops of all the day lilies in the bed in front of the guest house. They eat half of the autumn joy plants in that garden as well. But worst of all: they striped the winterberry bushes of leaves and berries.

Earlier this month, the lawn reseeders had remarked on the handsomeness of those winterberries.

Come winter, when snow might make foraging hard, the birds for whom the winterberries were intended, will have to keep flying if they are looking for sustenance.

I’d take a photo but it is too depressing. It’s not only the bittersweet that’s out of my control.

Yesterday I cleared the bayberry heath of bittersweet and dewberry. The latter is alive and well as it ha not been a target of my spraying. The bittersweet was not thriving but is also not completely dead. I found one egg case for a mantis and a mushroom. Here are before and after photos.

 

In an area along the southern border of the meadow where the Monarch caterpillars had been chewing the different milkweed, I cut bittersweet. Much of it is so dead that only bear stalks remain. And of course, root. It was easier just to tug on the dead stems and sometimes root came out as well. The root I could pull easily is not healthy. This praying mantis was in the area. I have come upon 5 egg cases for mantises.

Today I worked in the switchgrass section off the path to the beehives. The switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), planted in 2006, has overrun the little bluestem although the B. Trefoil, a legume and not a native, remains in the understory. Bittersweet has not been able to get established in this section but the dewberry has. The B. Trefoil, at the same level as the dewberry, seems at risk for being choked out. So I clipped dewberry.

I also cut to the ground as many bittersweet stems as I could in an area adjacent to the switchgrass where I had pulled bittersweet by the root in the early spring before the herbicide plan took shape. Dewberry came out with the bittersweet wherever they were intertwined.

Before I loose track, here’s an imprecise list of summer animal sitings.

Red fox: Adult foxes have been out in the meadow all summer. In fact, one has come very close to the house on several occasions. Dorie saw 3 kits from the guest house in late June. Ellie and Henning had good views of the family while they were visiting in late July. The kits have grown so that it is hard for me to tell whose who, but four foxes regularly used the paths to get around the meadow. For the past two weeks, I have not seen any foxes however.

Wild turkey: While the Turks were visiting, two female turkeys and five poults were regularly in the meadow. Are they eating up the grasshoppers? They left within a few days of the Turks, about mid August.

White-tailed deer: One day earlier in August, a doe and two fawns appeared on the southern edge of the meadow. Another early morning in August, a single deer wondered around the center of the meadow nibbling on grasses.

Great blue heron: I looked up from lunch one day in mid August to see the Great blue heron who frequents the Bailey pond taking a stroll at the meadow’s edge.

It’s come to this. I will continue to cut and pull, but I am increasing my arsenal (literally) of defense against bittersweet and back swallow-wort. Carl Sawyer and I walked the meadow this evening to determine an herbicide plan.

I’ll keep a log of plant IDs elsewhere. Suffice it to say here: Carl identified lots of plants but found about as many for which we’ll have to consult Newcomb’s. He’s interested in keeping bees. Maybe we can swap his botanical knowledge for my bee keeping experience.