Thursday, April 24, 2008

May Is An Outdoors Month

Get ready for May! It is the time for getting out into the marshes and ponds and lake shores. These bodies of water are the most fascinating of the outdoors.

The root-stained, weed-grown, algae-brown waters of the marsh, the cattail-fringed pond, and the lush green necklace of willows and sedges around a blue lake harbor fascinating creatures.

There's just something about a body of water that lures man to it. Is it the timeless sound of the lake waves lapping against a stony shore, or the plant tangled shallows of a pond filled with creatures from insects to alligators, or fresh water ponds formed behind barren dunes on ocean beaches?

May! -- the time of wild strawberries, wild sweet william, wild ginger and wild geraniums, often called cranesbill because of the queer shape of its seed capsules. In the marsh skunk cabbages emerge, beautiful to view from a distance. Its foul odor belies its beauty.

Around swamps and ponds marsh marigolds glitter in the warm sun. The common dandelion is everywhere, its golden flowers enhancing weedy fields and roadsides.

This is the season when indigo buntings sing from lofty, leafless treetops, when meadowlarks sing along fence rows, when orchard orioles are spotted with long green grass lengths for the nest hanging at the tip end of a branch of water oak, and the yellow-breasted chat who you know is around by his grunts, screeches and snorting noises.

Bobolinks, from the pampas of Argentina on their way to northern nesting grounds, sweep over the ripening grain fields with tinkling melodies in their throats.

May is the time to see the striking scarlet tanager, with jet black wings and tail, on his way to more northern nesting grounds. Red-wing black birds throw camouflage aside and blaze crimson epaulets from every bending cattail stalk. Wafting over the gray water is their liquid song, "o-ka-leee, o-ka-leeee." The protective-colored dowdy female is busy nest building.

Look around. There's a common yellow-throat hiding in dense vegetation. You can hear him, "witchity, witchity, witchity," but you don't see him. Lisping among the pines and oaks hung with Spanish moss is a parula. These colorful tiny warblers love swamps, ponds and lake shores where they nest in a swinging swag of Spanish moss. The hooded warbler's haunts are swampy environments . . . low, heavily shaded woods with thick undergrowth. Damp woods around lakes and ponds are favored by this handsome yellow and black feathered beauty.

A great blue heron stalking along the shore of lapping lake water, or standing motionless in the brown water of a pond among reed grass and spatter-dock, is one of the most spectacular visitors of the water habitats.

May! Don't miss the show that's quickly pulling the curtain for the next scene -- summer.

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