(This column was first published in the October 21, 2002 issue of The Buffalo News.)
Too much of my summer was spent indoors. Enviously, I share with you my friend Carl Carbone's communication about his family's experiences. My brief comments are in parentheses.
"About three weeks ago a mockingbird stopped by for just a brief stay. We had an indigo bunting checking out the niger seed with the goldfinches one day in early summer. There was a visiting meadowlark one afternoon. My 5-year-old daughter, Rosanne, spotted a red-headed woodpecker on our tray feeder early in the season.
"Two broods of house wrens serenaded us for most of the summer and we had many chipping sparrows. I found two of their nests. Mysteriously, one brood disappeared -- there one day and gone without a trace the next. My guess is that they were plucked from their nest in one of our Austrian pines by a crow, since the nest was not disturbed at all." (Another possibility: those wrens. They are not good neighbors.)
"I saw at least two broods of bluebirds. They like to catch insects on our untreated lawn. The drumming of the pileated woodpeckers on the dead trees in Emery Park, across the street from us, called us out to look a couple of times. Great horned, screech and barred owls all called there at one time or another.
"In the insect category, we had the usual hummingbird moths, lots of paper wasps, and those nasty bald-faced hornets that would chase the hummingbirds away from the feeder. My friend, the Nebraska conehead dropped by again, along with the katydids, cicadas, and a praying mantis.
"While fishing at New Albion Lake, Rosanne exclaimed, 'Dad! A Northern Water Snake!' I can't tell you how happy it makes me to know she's so interested in nature. Aside from the toads and occasional bullfrogs, we haven't seen many reptiles and amphibians.
"We had a 'dog vomit' slime mold on our mulch under a Frasier fir tree. What really caught me off guard was what happened when I watered the tree with the hose. The release of spores in a boiling purple smoke was right out of Harry Potter!
"We have had a very large skunk eating under our birdfeeders at night. It must be 24 to 30 inches from nose to tip of its big white bushy tail. One night, it was joined by a much smaller skunk that was mainly black with different markings. They seemed content to share until the smaller one nipped the bigger in the bottom. The big skunk swung around and bit him near the head and scared him off. We got it on video too. A couple of days ago, one of them dug up and destroyed the yellowjacket nest in the ground near the house. Thank you Mr. or Mrs. Skunk.
"I think I have poison ivy growing on a tree in the back of my property, but I'm not sure. The leaves are reddish and do not have serrated edges. The main leaf has a 'mitten' look to it and the vine on the tree has greenish-white berries." (Poison ivy leaves vary widely. The white berries suggest a correct identification. Look too for hairs attaching stems to the tree.)
"We saw lots of great meteors this summer. One night during the Perseid shower, my sister professed that she didn't think she had ever seen a shooting star. Moments later one of the best I have ever seen rose in the East and flew halfway up to the zenith. She has really high expectations now. We're looking forward to the Leonids in November."
A delightful summer on the Niagara Frontier.-- Gerry Rising