When I think about summer along the Monocacy River, I think about sun, heat, and humidity, of course, but it’s the little things that really define the season…things like spiders, bugs, beetles, bees and other creepy crawlies. Some of these invertebrates are welcome: I love examining spiders in their webs, watching damselflies flit from plant to plant along streams of shallow water, and bees bumbling over the wildflowers in the floodplain. On the other hand, the invasive insect destroyers, like japanese beetles, which descend upon plants in dense, reproducing masses and devour their hosts’ leaves to bits of lacy shreds, repulse me. Yesterday, however, when I saw a slew of them chewing up some stinging nettle, I was almost happy with them. So, you see, it really is the little things. As long as you don’t mind getting a gnat in your eye every now and then.
Foraging for trash proved a lifesaving mission yesterday. While exploring the island, I came upon a bright yellow container advertising “18 Canadian Nightcrawlers.” Since the top was off, I could see that there was still dirt inside. Assuming that a fisherman wouldn’t leave perfectly good bait to shrivel in the sun, I dumped the soil to put the container in my bag and was surprised to see several long, meaty worms fall writhing to the earth. Hastily, I gathered them back up into the container. But, after looking around in vain for the careless fisherman, I agreed with my boys that we should liberate the nightcrawlers (poor, displaced Canadians) and give them an opportunity for a new life on the Monocacy. The boys decanted and reburied them a safe distance from the water. On the way home, I attempted to throw away yet another piece of garbage, a random square of cardboard caught in some wintry underbrush, when I discovered a few snails clinging to its underside. It was an easy decision simply to return the cardboard to the ground with snails intact. After all, cardboard biodegrades, and the snails weren’t being particularly offensive.
UPDATE, 6/14/16: I have since learned that I absolutely should not have liberated these nightcrawlers as they are an invasive species that can harm the native wildflower population and change the composition of the forest floor. Read more here. My apologies. I really am ashamed of my ignorance!
UPDATE, 4/11/16: It seems I’m destined to uncover little critters. Today, trying to lift a piece of plastic (which I have since learned is irretrievably buried in the sand), I found a most impressive wolf spider. He wasn’t inclined to have his picture taken, so I had to chase him around a bit. Thankfully, I don’t suffer from arachnophobia. (To be honest, I only mentioned that last bit because I have to take advantage of the few times Greek comes in handy).
It’s been a bit cold lately, but, despite historic winds, also vividly clear and sunny. When I went for a walk this morning it was in the 40’s, which didn’t stop any of the wildlife from going about their spring business. In a marsh a pair of Canada geese were blaring their horns at each other, barely succeeding in drowning out the insistent territorial buzzes of the red-wing blackbirds; a groundhog cautiously popped his head out of a hole on an embankment; an audacious mockingbird cycled repeatedly through his vast songbook from the top of a sycamore tree; and more than one cottontail noisily fled from me through the underbrush. There was, however, at least one creature hiding from the unseasonable temperatures. Beneath a a scrap of thick, back plastic, I found a wee beastie coiled up in a loose spiral: a baby garter snake too cold even to be bothered by me. After taking a picture (which required that I bend down only inches away from him), I recovered the poor cold-blooded baby with the plastic. Because today it was more humane not to pick up the trash.