Water Closet for May 1, 2015
[pullquote]”I predicted the critters of the subnivium would have an easy time of munching on the garden shrubbery, and that certainly came true, at least in our area.”[/pullquote] In early March while this winter’s record snow still lay deeply o’er the land naturalist Fred Gralenski way Down East in Pembroke, Maine, sent us his biweekly Quoddy Nature Notes’ essay entitled “Winners and Losers this Winter”. Here is his bare-ground follow up received last week. Check your bushes and report back to the Stream Team as to what you find. We’ll send on to Fred.
QUODDY NATURE NOTES (4/20/15)
Is winter finally over? Did the earth move around a bit and our area now gets enough sun so that more snow melts than falls? As I write this, that’s what seems to be happening, but maybe the infamous ‘Polar Vortex’ or something new is just hiding in the wings of this reality theater. A couple of issues ago I made some predictions of winners and losers. Do I get my oracle badge?
With the heavy snow starting in mid-January, I predicted the critters of the subnivium would have an easy time of munching on the garden shrubbery, and that certainly came true, at least in our area. The shrubs that were chewed the most were generally very low types like creeping cedar. This is understandable as wild critters are not stupid. Why not set up shop in a place that provides cover and is also edible? Not exactly a gingerbread house, but it obviously served the purpose. However, there were some shrubs, like flowering quince, that were relatively open and unprotected, but were chewed as much as three feet from the ground. As quince grows in a loose clump, that is, a dozen and a half stalks in an area about one square foot, another interesting characteristic was noted. Some of the stems were chewed almost completely by the pesty voles, while other stems were completely ignored. So the bush losers, besides the Quince, generally were: Euonymus, Burning bush, Creeping cedar, Mock orange, Japanese rose and Columbine vine. The bush winners, that are the shrubs that came through the winter and were not seriously bothered by voles were: Forsythia, Elderberry, Beach plum, Mountain ash, Golden chain tree, Wisteria and Rhododendron. Of course, our mice and voles might have different tastes than yours, so prepare for differences, but I would be interested to know what these are. It is a little early to get a final result of winter kill in any of my fruit trees, but there does not seem to be a problem in that regard. January of 2014 seemed to have had an unusually long thaw that caught some of my trees by surprise. It’s also interesting that some plants will sprout whether there is snow covering or not. Apparently plants generally use up oxygen instead of making it in photosynthesis and generate heat when they first sprout. The most famous local plant that accomplishes this feat is Skunk cabbage, and it uses heat not only to melt the late ice but also to attract pollinators.
Some of the smaller owls had a tough winter. I checked with “Avian Haven”, the well- known bird rehabilitator, and they told me that this year they had more than usual Saw-whet and Barred owl patients, and the Great Horned owl patient numbers indicated a typical year. This is sort of understandable, as Great horned owls are opportunists, and will harvest anything from a feral cat to a Snowshoe hare, while the smaller owls rely heavily on the critters that were safely hidden in the subnivium.
The other animals didn’t seem to do so badly. Deer that have come out of their yards and sample the new shoots of grass look in good shape. I have seen a flock of a half-dozen turkeys, and certainly the Robins think that all’s right with the world here. I tend to agree with the Robins.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATIONFOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||Jan||Feb||March||April|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||3.40||3.25||4.65||4.53|
|2015 Central Watershed Actual||3.67||3.55||3.62||3.2 as of 4/28**|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For April 28, 2015 Normal . . . 95 CFS Current Rate . . . 94 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru March.
**Middleton Stream Team is source of actual precipitation data for April.
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584