Written by Gwyn Loud for the Lincoln Land Conservation Trust. She welcomes your sightings and questions at 781-259-8690 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer arrives officially on June 21, the solstice, but we had a preview of the new season with sizzling temperatures and high humidity on May 21 and 22 ( a high of 97 ℉ ). Memorial Day weekend was hot again but since then then we have had some glorious cool sunny days. We remain in very dry conditions, however, in spite of some welcome rain this month, which made plants, farmers, and gardeners temporarily happy. The average rainfall for our area in May is 4.04”; we had only .82”. June 1 brought an unusual combined meteorological and horticultural event, creating a “pollen cloud”. Dave Epstein, who writes a weather column for the Boston Globe, wrote that a “ backdoor cold front with a dramatic change in air mass moved through the region shaking pollen from the trees….the gusty winds helped release billions of pine pollen grains which were mature and ready for dispersal. The bursts of pollen turning the the skyline a strange yellowish-green”, was like nothing he had ever seen. I am sure many of us here in Lincoln witnessed this phenomenon, with the pine pollen coating everything. Now, the tiny brown male pine cones, which held the pollen, are all over the ground under white pines.
This year the black locust trees bloomed more profusely than I ever remember in decades of observing. Every single tree bore hanging clusters of white flowers in an amazing display. I wish I knew why! Black cherry and horse chestnut trees bloomed well also. Flowers blooming along roadsides include Dame’s rocket (In the mustard family even though it looks like phlox) and wild geranium. In fields look for Queen Anne’s lace, tufted vetch and red or white clover. On a plant walk led by Stacy Carter to Chapman’s Pasture we came across starflower and wild sarsaparilla in the woods, lingering lady’s slippers, and a lovely variety of ferns. It was inspiring to see the new planting of native plants in Chapman’s Pasture, part of the LLCT’s Pollinator Project. In Browning Field we could see bedstraw was taking over; there is also a lot of milkweed there, just starting to flower. Multiflora rose, an invasive, is blooming now and pervasive. It’s been good to see many homeowners allowing lawns to grow longer this spring before mowing, thus allowing small flowers in the lawn to benefit pollinators, not to mention saving on gas if gas lawnmowers are used.
Birds are very busy taking care of first broods and many have started second clutches. I have been watching “teenage” bluebirds, as big as their parents but still begging to be fed. Come on kids- it’s time to feed yourself!
If you are walking in a plowed field look out for killdeer, which nest right on the ground. The parents will try to distract you with a ‘broken wing” act, because their chicks are on the ground nearby. Baby killdeer, like other shorebirds are precocial, meaning that they when they hatch they have down feathers, eyes open, and can walk and hunt for food right away. Goslings and ducklings also fall into this category. An Old. Concord Road resident was surprised to find a flock of mallard ducklings huddled near her doorstep. Eventually they disappeared into the shrubbery, hopefully being led by their mother to a neighborhood pond. ” To quote an Avian Report newsletter, “Altricial birds (also known as nidicolous birds) remain in the nest and depend on their parents for food, heat, and protection. Altricial chicks are born with closed eyes, naked, patches of down feathers, and unable to move away from the nest. Altricial birds include passerine birds, hummingbirds, swallows, woodpeckers, among others,” in other words, all our familiar backyard birds.
Barn swallows are flourishing in nests in barns around town, that is, if the barn owner leaves the doors open. The swallows make a mess with their droppings but the trade-off is they help keep the number of barn flies down, and the swallows are beautiful! In the many nest boxes at Drumlin Farm bluebirds and tree swallows are doing well and it looks like indigo buntings and red-breasted nuthatches may be nesting at the Sanctuary. There are bobolinks nesting there as well as in Farm Meadow, thanks to delayed hay-cutting in both places. Other birds of note reported around town include a few wood thrushes, a winter wren singing in the Pigeon Hill woods, a blue-gray gnatcatcher, orchard oriole, a Swainson’s thrush, American redstart, Eastern kingbirds, and red-shouldered hawks calling. Several people have seen and heard barred owls calling in the daytime.
Observers report good numbers of pileated woodpeckers and great blue herons. Brown creepers have been singing their high tinkly song and are surely nesting under a flap of loose bark on a large dead or dying tree in dense woods, as is their habit. Anecdotally, red-eyed vireos and scarlet tanagers do not seem as numerous as in the past. A Motus Wildlife Tracking System antenna was installed on top of the drumlin at Drumlin Farm. It employs automated telemetry to detect tiny tracking devices on birds, bats, and large insects to track migratory movements. It has great potential to contribute to international understanding of wildlife migrations.
In my previous column I worried about the noticeable lack of chipmunks. Worry no more! They are back in strong numbers. A neighbor of mine spotted and photographed a bobcat on her property and even filmed it catching a vole. It was on the edge of the Rando swamp, a large tract of wild land which stretches from Conant Rd. to Winter street and has no human trails. Mink have been seen along the stream feeding Valley Pond from the north and white-tailed deer are giving birth to fawns at this time. A tiny new-born fawn was found one morning right next to the big red barn at Drumlin Farm, a very public spot. Staff members roped off the area so the fawn would not be disturbed. In the evening the doe returned and staff moved the fawn to a more protected place. On your own property if you find a new fawn, leave it alone and the mother will come back to care for it. A walker on Tower Rd. one afternoon heard a rustling in a rhododendron and a medium-sized raccoon “emerged with a young (but not a baby) ground hog in its mouth and carried it up a tree. The scene was riveting. The raccoon placed the ground hog on a branch, went up higher in the tree to take a look at me (and my dog,) then went down a bit to retrieve the dinner-critter. It was remarkable how large the prey was compared to the raccoon- about 1/2-1/3 the raccoon’s size. Impressive! Hope the raccoon did not get a tummy ache!”
This is turtle nesting season and many people have reported seeing turtles on the road as they make their way to or from laying eggs in soft or sandy soil, places where they may have laid eggs for years or decades. Sadly, a few have been squashed by cars. If you see a turtle in the road the best thing to do is to patiently let it walk across. If it is in danger and you need to move it, be sure to move it gently in the direction it is headed. A snapping turtle can hurt you if you get close to its head. Never lift one by its tail as that can injure it. A good way to move a snapper is shown in the video clip link below.
Various species of frogs are calling now, including green frogs which make a banjo-like “plunk”. A great place to hear and see them is the pond in Pierce Park. Bullfrogs are booming their deep-throated “jug-a-rum”, a sound which can carry quite a distance on still night air. Gray tree frogs are trilling loudly from wet areas, and if you hear a short snoring call you are hearing a pickerel frog.
Butterflies provide spots of flitting color and I have enjoyed seeing tiger swallowtails, black swallowtails, and monarchs in my garden. Various species of bees are collecting nectar and pollen from flowers everywhere and deer flies are out. Fireflies flash their messages after dark in fields and woods, a beautiful sight on a summer night. Please consider turning off outdoor lights after dark as the light can interfere with firefly behavior as well as other other aspects of nocturnal ecology.
Speaking of night, the June Full Moon, on June 14, is a Super Moon, one of two this year. It will look bigger and brighter than most full moons because it is also at perigee, the closest it will be to Earth (222,098 miles) in its 27-day orbit. The final Super Moon of 2022 will occur on July 13.
© Gwyn Loud