Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Phenology

May brings the birth of many young or emergence of young from nurseries.  Bluebird boxes are filling up with eggs, 5 to a clutch and the first hungry mouths are already gaping for a diet of fresh bugs.  Meanwhile in our barn two large speckled eggs will be cracked open any day, revealing a pair of beautiful (in the eye of the beholder) baby black vultures.

Hungry bluebirds
"Brother, come on out!"

Bullfrog- MDC
Bullfrogs, the largest frog of our region, live in or near permanent bodies of water.  More active at night this frog eats crustaceans, fish, small mammals and even birds.  The males are extremely territorial commencing in May and through July; their breeding season.  This is the time to enjoy the impressive deep loud call that can be heard as far as a quarter mile away.

Ouch!- hairs of stinging nettle
Stinging Nettle  gets its name from the burning sensation that occurs after contact with the hairs on the leaves or stems of the plant.  In May, the plant becomes tall enough to easily touch or brush against and can be found in woodland areas, along creeks, and in flood plains where the soil stays moist. It can grow up to three feet tall.

Jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, is now only a few inches tall. Known for its skin healing properties, it is frequently found in the same area as stinging nettle.  When stinging nettle finds you, reach for the jewelweed plant and slice the stem, then rub its juicy inside on exposed irritated parts. This will promptly ease irritation and usually prevents breakout for most people.  Later in summer the tiny seeds that fly out when touching this "touch-me-not" are a source for entertaining children.

The night light show of lightning bugs or fireflies begins on warm evenings in May.  The main reason lightning bugs flash is to attract mates. Among most, but not all, species of North American lightning bugs, males fly about flashing while females perch on vegetation, usually near the ground. If the female sees a flasher (note- not the usual meaning) and she's ready to mate she responds by flashing right after the male's last flash. So that a flasher doesn't attract a firefly of a different species, each lightning bug species has its own special flash pattern.

May is the start of the season which doesn't require a hunting license, in fact you don't have to hunt for them as they hunt for you.  I mean of course chigger  season which runs through September.  Chiggers survive best in brushy, grassy or weedy areas that retain some moisture during the day. Their distribution within an area is patchy. They are most active in afternoons and when the ground temperature is about 77-86F. They become inactive below 60F.

Cricket frog- MDC
Early May brings the “gik gik gik” call of the male northern cricket frog.  (Often sounding like the rapid tapping of two pebbles together.) A female may lay up to 400 eggs, either singly or in small packets of up to 7, which are attached to submerged vegetation.  Eggs hatch in a few days, and tadpoles begin metamorphosis 5–10 weeks later.
Thanks to Tana Pulles for the ideas and much of the story.

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