Nature: All around us, the circle of life is moving



Purple vetch shows its beauty now everywhere you go on this island. Sometimes it’s in solid patches or sometimes it’s mixed in with madder and daisies in a wild bouquet. The colors are intense. 

A field of common evening primrose, Oenothera biennis, at sunrise. GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Evening primroses flower at dusk and give beach strollers a real treat. As this flower first blooms, it opens its bright yellow blossoms a few at a time. Each individual flower opens for a single night. New buds farther down open up on successive evenings. 

Evening primroses give fragrance to the air and nectar to moths, like the sphinx moth that comes eagerly to feed. Nectar-feeding moths have long tongues that reach deep into the nectar cup of the primrose. At dawn, bees may come and perhaps a passing hummingbird will stop to feed on the other blossoms. If you look in my latest book, “Living On The Edge” (in local libraries), there is an excellent photo of two rosy-colored moths feeding on the yellow blossoms. They were seen in the morning and possibly had spent the night on the blossoms. 

A pair of redstarts surprised a friend this week in her garden as they flitted about, as is their custom. Redstarts are never still a moment. They are constantly on the move, searching for insect food in small bushes and trees near water. The

Male redstart, Phoenicurus phoenicuru.
GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

males are red and black; the females are yellow and black. They resemble feathered butterflies. A favorite place of mine to see them is at Sieur de Monts Spring in Acadia National Park. Redstarts eat insects, spiders and berries. They always seem restless and fidgety as they search for food. 

A pair of robins have a nest in a red maple close to my house. When the tree was planted many years ago, we didn’t realize it would get so big!  Even after several years of severe pruning, it has leafed out and is still too big. This year, there is “a nest of robins in her hair.” I remember a poem set to music called “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer that expresses this well. 

I came across a big dead frog in my driveway this week that had been run over by a car. It was long dead, but I like frogs and I just had to move the carcass off to the grassy roadside. As I did so, large carrion beetles emerged from the carcass. One creature dies and sustains life for another. This is happening all around us, all the time. 

I remember embarrassing my daughter many years ago when we were visiting Cumberland Island, Ga. This is a beautiful wildlife area known for wild horses and all sorts of wildlife, including alligators and armadillos. We loved seeing everything. Many wild horses lived on the island and traveled about the sandy roads leaving dung on the sand. In the dung, however, there were fascinating dung beetles that I had never seen, and I was on my hands and knees photographing them. We both survived the incident. I’m 93 and never stop learning. 

Flowering pickerelweed in a pond.
GETTY IMAGES PHOTO

Pickerel weed is starting to bloom. You can find its leaves in wet places all over the island. The flowers bloom profusely in the shallow ponds of this island from June through October. Although each blossom lasts but a single day, the gradual succession of blossoms goes on uninterrupted for months. The glossy leaves are large and shaped like an arrowhead. Although attractive to look at, it has an unpleasant odor. The seeds from each blossom are eaten by black duckswood ducks and muskrats. Although bees are primary pollinators, the plant is also visited by occasional hummingbirds. Muskrats and deer like the leaves. 

Take time to enjoy the interesting wildlife sharing this island with us.  

 

Let me know what you are seeing and if you have any questions. Send questions or comments to [email protected]. 

Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

Columnist
Send any questions or observations to [email protected] or call 244-3742.

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