May might be my favorite month. The energy of spring swells in every living thing. I remain in awe of all the energy. A Catbird sings all night outside our open window. Robins begin their singing at 5:15am. That’s the warm-up for the avian symphony that will last all day. I heard a Black Poll Warbler in the yard this morning as squadrons of Chimney Swifts flew overhead. When the Black Poll passes through on its way to the Artic to breed, the other late migrants should be here as well: Yellow Billed Cuckoos and Dickcissels.
I can hear Bobolinks and Bobwhites everyday here in Swoope. The Bobolinks have the craziest song I have ever heard from a bird (it has a double larynx) and they are so strikingly beautiful in their black and white tuxedos with little yellow helmets. They will nest in our cool-season pastures along with the Eastern Meadowlarks and Grasshopper Sparrows.
Last month we released fifty Northern Bobwhites on four different farms in Swoope. We now have a pair in the yard and at least another male in the pasture to the north. Our neighbor has a pair as well. Will we see their chicks this year? We hope so. Shrubby habitat and native landscapes are key to bringing their populations back.
Our cows will not be able to keep up with the growth of the forage in the pastures. Orchardgrass has already headed out and is in anthesis – that’s when the anthers are out emitting their pollen into the air. I tell Jeanne, “That hay ought to be in the barn”. She gives me the ole “one-eye” look. We both know we’d never get it cured because of the rains and cool temperatures. Nevertheless, from a nutritional standpoint, it should be in the barn.
Orchardgrass, fescue, bluegrass, and tall meadow oat grass are all in bloom emitting pollen which causes many people to have an allergic reaction called “hay fever”. They don’t really get a fever but the runny nose and itchy eyes come from the pollen emitted by the plants that farmers make for hay.
The Black Locust trees, Robinia pseudoacacia, are in full bloom. They are totally white with flowers. I can hear the bees on those blooms from afar; it’s like an interstate highway for pollinators. The flowers are an important source for honey. This native tree is awesome. It’s in the pea family and like all legumes produces its own nitrogen. Farmers use the timber from this tree for fence posts because the wood is very resistant to rot and the wood is dense making it ideal for firewood. This tree is also what we call a “pioneer” species which means it is one of the first trees to establish in abandoned fields. For wildlife, pollinators, utilitarian value and beauty, its one of our great native trees.
Bobolinks, Bobwhites and Black Locust blooms are just a few reasons Swoope and the month of May are so special to me.