June Bug Day, Upside-Down

Today was a different kind of June Bug Day: an upside-down kind.
Instead of glossy, green grownups flying over grass, these June beetles are weird, white grubs crawling over streets.
But the weirdest thing is how they crawl. Despite having six serviceable little legs, these larvae travel on their backs, upside down.

“Crawl” is too weak a word. Squoonch is better. The grubs squoonch, undulate, and wriggle forward while their feet point at the sky.
The sky, meanwhile, is raining, which is why these teenagers leave their underground homes to squoonch somewhere less wet. 

How do they do it?
With “ambulatory bristles.”
Isn’t that a wonderful phrase?
Stiff hairs on the outside, plus strong muscles on the inside get the grubs where they wish to go. 

But why do they do it?
Why not walk on . . . ambulatory legs?
No other grubs choose bristles over feet. 

Please click the Play symbol to watch 5 seconds of Squoonching:

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Cicada Songs

Do you hear what I hear?
Cicadas: morning, noon, and (almost) night.

These are the Dog Day cicadas: the annual species who show up every year.
Their little husks in the yard and their big songs in the trees are signs of high summer, and to me, of Home.

But more importantly, they are a sign that one bit of our world is working as it should.

If you don’t hear what I hear, can you go out and try? Listen for the buzzes and grindings and trills where the trees are: mature, native trees like Sugar maples, elms, red-cedars.
For maximum effect, listen at dusk on a Greenway or near some woods, or under fat hackberries in a shady neighborhood, where the combined cicada volume can almost rattle your bones. We’re talking Spinal Tap “eleven.”

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Summer Sounds: Teen Hawks

Are you hearing awkward screams lately? From the sky, I mean. These are the screams I’ve been waiting for. Awkward hawk screams are a Sign of the Season. 

Every summer, the Red-tailed Hawks who hunt the neighborhood train at least one baby to hunt. And even though the baby is already the size of his parents, his call is not.

Mom and Dad do the Scary Hawk Scream familiar from movie soundtracks: the raspy but piercing KEEEEEEEEE-ARR that fills the sky for about two seconds. This, I hear year-round when Red-tails soar overhead.
Here’s a quick sample:

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What White Tree is Blooming Now

My short, personal essay “What White Tree is Blooming Now” from 2018 has just been archived online, thanks to The Hopper, an environmental literary magazine. And the timing could not be more perfect…

Here’s the first bit, to test if you’d like to read more:

It started. The procession of trees. The trees don’t move, but the white does: white tree blossoms, from species to species.
First, in late February and if not charred by sleet, come white flowers of star magnolia.
Stinky Bradford pears are next, trees so ubiquitous in corporate landscapes (and invasive in natural ones) that when they froth white, even people who don’t notice trees notice.
Then, dogwood. Everyone loves dogwood.
Serviceberry, hawthorn, black cherry, yellowwood, black locust, and so on, week by week of the rolling spring, one white tree bloom after the other. It won’t stop till summer, and by then, who is watching? By then, Nashville is a weedy jungle and we stay inside to escape the chiggers. 

But I’ll be watching. The procession is important. There are rules: only white, only trees, and only where I can see them while I go about my business.

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Dogwood Winter / Dogwood Spring

I’m calling it. Dogwoods are in full bloom, but this morning dawned a surprising 42 degrees—parka weather for me—so I’m calling today a Dogwood Winter.

Dogwood winter is one of the “Little Winters” of olde tyme: one of the cold spells that snuck back to bite us (and our crops) when we thought cold spells were over.

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Instant Butterfly Garden (from scraps)

Easiest butterfly garden ever: let celery butts and carrot butts sprout, then stick ’em in soil.

Maybe I mean “easiest butterfly factory” ever, because these butts won’t just feed butterflies, they’ll make butterflies.

All summer, Black Swallowtail butterfly moms will find the leaves and lay eggs, and then you’ll have more Black Swallowtails.
And if you put your butts where you can see them every day, you can watch the whole butterfly lifecycle from the comfort of a lawn chair.

If you have not yet watched a butterfly lay an egg,
or a caterpillar hatch,
or a caterpillar molt,
or a caterpillar become a chrysalis,
or a chrysalis become a butterfly,
this scrap garden is your chance to increase your chances.

You MUST SEE THESE THINGS.

If you have a kid or a parent or a friend or soulmate or neighbor, then THEY MUST SEE THESE THINGS, TOO.

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Free the Tree (a mini Weed Wrangle)

“Smothered and Covered” works great for hashbrowns at Waffle House, but not for trees in your yard.
When invasive vines smother and cover trunks and branches, the tree—eventually—is toast.

Look around. It’s winter. Are shade trees casting shade from twigs that should be bare?
Are elms and hackberries magically green from soil to sky?

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Robins for Thanksgiving

The Robin ‘Hood show is starting. Nashville ‘hoods keep robins all year, but we get an influx of winter robins, too, and right now all the robins are appearing in a hackberry near you.

November is the month I love hackberries all the more. 
And, it’s the month hackberry haters hate them all the more. 
The same reason explains both: ROBINS.

The Sidewalk Nature pic below is another Robin “hood:” the hood of a car. Surely the driver must was from out of town, because locals know better than to park under a hackberry full of robins.

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