Nature: Happy bees playing vetch 

Wildflowers flourish in the summer and it is a treat to walk anywhere on this island if you stay aware of your surroundings. From June into August, I love to look for and find purple vetch. The purple flowers of this creeping vinelike plant will attract your attention from local fields where they are part of the wild bouquet with hawkweedsdaisies and buttercups. The colorful flowers grow in a long, onesided cluster. 

Like many island plants, vetch was introduced from Europe and is now well established here. The plant grows on weak angular, hairy stems and the fruit is like a small peapod. Both the seeds and the foliage are eaten, to a limited extent, by birds and rodents, and vetch makes excellent fodder for cows. They love the honey flavor of the crown vetch. See if you can find vetch this week! 

A field of vetch is filled with the sound of happy bees. Although the parts of the flower do fit closely together, they stretch and open with the energetic bee’s weight and movement as it enters for nectar. Sometimes a bee will bypass the whole process and bite a hole in the base of the blossom to gain easy access to the nectar! 

My email often has pictures of unidentified plants and birds from column readers and I try my best to identify whatever has been sent. Just recently, a reader from Isleford sent me one that had me stumped, so I reached out to some experts I know. Shortly the reply came back telling me the pricklylooking object in the Rosa rugosa bush was a gall induced by cynipid wasps (genus Diplolepis). It generally is found on the roses of Canada’s grasslands. 

 The gall almost looks as if it is part of the plant. If you want more information about this, go online. There are many photos of the gall and the wasp. One of my experts actually thanked me for asking him to figure out what it was. We all learned somethingThe search for knowledge is always exciting!! I can say with confidence that you are NEVER too old to learn something! 

My daughter gave me a butterfly bush recently and I watched it carefully for days hoping for the first visitor to this bush that butterflies love. A fritillary was the first to find it. This bush is a big attractor for butterflies. I was really impressed with this last year when my daughter and I visited the French Islands off Newfoundland. A ferry boat takes you out to the islands and you must have a passport and pay for things in euros. You know you are in another country. My high school French helped a little, but I wished I had been a better student those many years ago.  

At our little bed-and-breakfast in the village, there was a large butterfly bush growing in the small courtyard and I noticed the bush filled with butterflies. Many of them were familiar to me, but not all. This bush is wellnamed and I’m hoping for good results here on MDI. 

A tiny blue azure flits about over my driveway and is one butterfly easy to identify. These little butterflies are like sparkling gems flitting about and are well named. The blues are some of the smallest butterflies. Watch for them these summer days. 

Turkeys are a familiar sight all over this island now. They are often a comical sight to see moving about. A friend mentioned to me that he had a flock of adults and ‘turklings on his lawn. I find them comical too when I see them moving along a back road and they try to figure out what they’re going to do. Turkeys are big birds and I was astounded one day on the beach when I surprised one and it took to the air like huge bomber. It was quite amazing! 

Nighthawks can be in the summer skies now. This bird was always known to me as the ‘cigar with wings’ when I first started birding many years ago. My mother was a birder and I had many kind adults who fostered my interest in wildlife. Nighthawks belong to the family of goatsuckers, a name that is European in origin. The bird is an insect eater, an excellent flier and has a big mouth. As this bird swoops through the air with its big mouth open to catch insectsit also makes a harsh nasal sound. Watch for them late in the day and at dusk. They have long pointed wings and a squaretipped or notched tail. It’s fun to watch them fly bycatching insects with their big mouths open! 

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


Ruth Grierson

Ruth Grierson

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

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