Friday, September 2, 2011

Late August Happenings...

   When I complain about how dry it is here in our corner of the Roanoke Valley, I'm not exaggerating. On the rare occasion that a pop-up thunderstorm has passed though, it misses our property completely. Especially when it approaches from the west, the rain systems typically are diverted, courtesy of being in what's called a rain shadow. Thanks Poor Mountain! We haven't had any measureable rain since late June/early July. I know there are folks out there who have it worse, namely Texas, or the other end of the spectrum, Vermont. Still, it's pretty bad here. The photo above shows what should be a glorious, lush stand of Crownbeard and Wingstem about to bloom and put on a buffet for the late season pollinators. However, I doubt it will bloom at all as the plants seem to have put themselves into survival mode. You can probably also see the brown leaves at the bottom of the photo. The trees are also going into survival mode, cutting off the circulation and dropping their leaves much earlier than usual. Crownbeard and Wingstem are staples here in the Roanoke Valley, you can find them growing at just about every woodland edge or right-a-way all over town. I really worry about the pollinators not having valuable late season food sources available to them.

   This is what the ground looks like, needless to say, no irrigation here!

   Although we can't give enough supplemental water to keep everything alive, we are watering the most essential plants, especially those blooming now, to continue to feed whomever passes through.  Here's a small sampling of this week's flowers and visitors...

   This tiny but gorgeous Pearl Crescent stopped by for a sip of Gaillardia nectar...

   and managed to share a little with the bumbles.

   A Gray Hairstreak (also called Common Hairstreak) was nearby on some Sedum.

   Some of the Joe-Pye Weed is still blooming, and our Skipper population explosion continues.

The wonderful Agastache "Blue Fortune" is still the favorite of all my pollinators, and pollinator hunters! Here a Wheel Bug is having a bumblebee for breakfast. Sorry Mr. Bumble but a Wheelbug's gotta eat too!

   We've also had a population explosion of Carpenter Bees. This one is a male, as evidenced by the yellow patch on his face and greenish eyes. Females have a black face and black eyes. I thought I had found a new-to-me bee before I realized the two sexes looked different.
   It's been fascinating to note over the course of the summer how different species of insects seem to have "their" time, when their population really takes off. Due to migration patterns and breeding behavior, I'm really starting to see how insects stagger their life cycles.

   Hey! Stop the press! As I'm writing this RIGHT NOW it's starting to rain! It's been thundering for about 30 minutes, but I didn't think we'd actually get any water from those clouds.

   I know it's hard to tell from this photo, but when I can't see Mason's Knob, I know it's raining hard! (There should be two mountains visible on the horizon) The rain barrels are overflowing! This is unreal! Wheee!


  1. Very happy for you - we hope to get some on Tuesday. Very dry here too, but I also water just a bit to keep the flowering/fruiting stuff producing. Buckeyes are almost ready to harvest.

  2. Julie or Ellen, I have never heard the phrase "ready to harvest" with respect to butterflies. Please to explain.

  3. What?! I'm sure she means nuts from the Buckeye shrub, not Buckeye butterflies!

  4. Yepper, I meant buckeye nuts from the shrub. Is there a buckeye butterfly? I have much to learn.

  5. What a brainiac! Ok, I did not attend Ohio State University. We have recently had a batch of Buckeye butterflies pass through our area. And, I have only ever seen one Buckeye shrub(at the local arboretum).Still, the face goes red. :-(

  6. So glad you've had some rain! We had 6 years of drought and this year was very wet. I know what it's like to have that much needed rainfall.

    Great photos,

  7. Thanks Heather, 6 years of drought!? Oh my, I think I'd lose my mind. I'd always thought Minnesota got plenty of rain.