What had been lawn is now baked hay. My husband has not mowed the lawn since mid-July -- which, coincidentally is when we last had a day below 80 degrees. "Pop-up" storms have been few and far between.
|Lawn - Sept. 7, 2015 (Margo D. Beller)|
But now that summer is supposedly over and school is in session, these same people are ready to do their usual suburban fall activities - mow and fertilize the lawn, buy mums and corn threshes to decorate for autumn - and they suddenly realize, hey, what happened to my lawn? Why doesn't it feel like autumn?
Whether it is hot and dry or hot and humid, without rain you have plants drying up. Even plants that are "drought-tolerant" or have deep roots need water once in a while, which I provide early in the morning as needed. Many people don't, and their dried-out, dead plants show the results.
|Despite my best efforts, burnt joe-pye weed. (Margo D. Beller)|
Scene 1: I have had a hummingbird feeder out all summer. I've written before that recently I had to buy a cup to fill with water and keep out the ants - itself a sign of drought - and create a moat. A few days ago I came on the porch, looked at the feeder and instead of a hummingbird a downy woodpecker was attempting to get its long tongue through the portal as the smaller hummer does. Just today, a tufted titmouse grabbed hold of the rim, leaned forward and dipped its bill into the moat. I've never seen such activity from either bird.
Scene 2: I do not put seed feeders out during the summer because birds usually can eat insects (more protein). However, with this drought, there is a dearth of flowering plants. Even where there are flowers - such as the rose of sharon - I have seen very few bees or other insects partaking of the pollen. That isn't normal.
MH knows I put out feeders around Labor Day, but last week he kept asking when they'd be going out. Ever since the bear destroyed my feeder pole, requiring me to buy a new one, I've been reluctant to put them back out, knowing I'd have to take them in every night.
But I put them out, figuring it would take a few days for the birds to find them. I was wrong.
|Titmouse at water cooler. (Margo D. Beller)|
I am glad to see birds, lord knows, but it took me some time to realize that I am providing an easier way to get food than hunting long and hard for food that could be quite some distance away. That is why the female downy woodpecker has learned another unusual behavior - how to get between the bars of the caged feeder to get some seed.
I also provide water - a water cooler for smaller birds, a water dish for larger birds. In summers, even those with plentiful rain, these are invaluable. Both smaller and larger birds have come to the water cooler, the larger birds contorting themselves from a nearby branch while the smaller ones are on an attached perch. The water dish has also brought an assortment of birds as well as squirrels and chipmunks.
Scene 3: Just as there are birds crowding into and atop the feeders - particularly the huge family of house sparrows, which blocks other birds from getting food unless I chase them off - there is a large flock of birds feeding on the leavings because it is easier than fighting the crowd above. These include mourning doves, cardinals, other sparrows and even titmice and chickadees, along with squirrels and chipmunks.
With so many birds pecking at what the goldfinches and other birds have dropped, it is surprising to me that no sharp-shinned or Cooper's hawks have swooped in to catch a meal. Maybe they are sticking to the shady forest, where some areas are still green. I know I would.
|Chickadee with seed. (Margo D. Beller)|
Is this global warming, this strange dipping of the Jet Stream that has us in a high-pressure system that keeps the rain north or south of the New York metropolitan area? Is this the "new normal?" I fear it is.
I know, California has been suffering years of drought. But take a look at this list of record temperatures.
|Nuthatch at caged feeder behind thistle sock. (Margo D. Beller)|
According to weather.com, the record hottest summers are:
|Pear tree showing effect of drought. (Margo D. Beller)|
Other Notables: Anchorage, Alaska (3rd hottest); Boise, Idaho (2nd hottest); Tucson, Arizona (2nd hottest); Columbia, South Carolina (3rd hottest); New Orleans (5th hottest); Baton Rouge, Louisiana (4th hottest)
Even Canada's Edmonton, Alberta went through its second-hottest August in 20 years.
Of course, not everyone is so affected. For every yin there's a yang. Again according to weather.com:
|Nuthatch, goldfinch, titmouse at feeder (Margo D. Beller)|
President Obama recently traveled to Alaska, to focus on climate change and its effects in the short term on the indigenous population and in the long term on the rest of the world. He is the first U.S. president to travel north of the Arctic Circle.
We've seen some lovely pictures - melting glaciers and the like - but he could've made the point just as well had he come to my backyard, watched the grass and trees and plants dry up and the birds fighting each other desperately for what food and water I provide.