Oh, to be a political columnist now that comity between our two major political parties was stillborn.

Comity never had a chance, of course. At best, an urban myth. Yet, its loss isn’t all bad – for a political columnist.

For them, new subjects for the next piece never stop coming. Never. Raw-politics, egos, corruption, back-biting, sex, intrigue, even occasional lawmaking. The fun never ends, plus the journalists stand a chance to become a writer and aspire to a Pulitzer.

I’m certain you can’t wait for my take on the deeper meaning of the encounter between a black Harvard professor and a white sergeant police officer. (Unfortunate. Commonplace. Potentially useful.) “Fixing” health care. (How to make it sexy?) Economics. (How to make it comprehensible?) Obama’s birthplace. (Hawaii) The environment, global heating, conservation. (Huh? Wuzzat? I forget.)

However, this is a natural history column. Mostly. And it’s midsummer, when nature seems to pause, a brief respite from having and raising young, from flowering, setting buds and growing leaves, from nurturing and laying eggs for the succeeding generation. Can recognition of such small everyday events match up with politics for our attention?

It has been impressive this past spring to see Jackson Hole and the entire region so green. A memorable growing year; some grasses grew to 4 and 5 feet. Promises a great hay crop. Impressive wildflowers. Shrubs setting fruits and berries, and officials find a good whitebark pine cone crop in remaining trees; a forecast of good nutritional news for grizzly bears.

Some aspen tree leaves are looking just a tad tired. Anyway, nature. Buttes infested with broome grass are becoming more brown than green. Surprisingly, a casual inspection of my lilac leaves doesn’t turn up any sign of leaf-cutter bee activity. At least so far.

Canada geese have accomplished their molt, and their young are about grown, so family groups are seen in practice flights. Brewer’s blackbirds are flocking, depending less and less on bird feeders. Similarly for magpies. There’s natural foods, animal and plant, for everybody. Summertime.

However, ground squirrels are about to hibernate. That will mean that certain predators, winged or four-footed, lose a relatively abundant and dependable food source. It seems, though, that mice, voles, squirrels and gophers are in good numbers locally.

Elsewhere, in Wood Buffalo National Park, Canada, and surrounding area, whooping crane nesting success was looked for, since spring conditions were rated as “good.” Some 60 nests were located. Winter 2008-09 was tough on the only self-sustaining population of whooping cranes in the world. Damage to their wintering grounds in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, and nearby areas as a result of prolonged drought resulting in their food shortages. Supplemental feeding had to be resorted to. At the beginning of spring migration the total population was estimated at 225 adult and 22 juveniles. Just 247 whoopers. Precious few.

Field Notes: Down in the valley, summer seems to have taken a brief pause. (I speak of Nature, of course; human activity obeys few natural laws). Many of our migratory and resident animals have completed their family obligation or are well along in their duties, and some are preparing for the next challenge: migration or winter.

Down in my patch of the valley, my feeder has gone pretty quiet. No families of black-headed grosbeaks or house finches. Fewer pine siskins and Cassin’s finches and no red-breasted nuthatches. Part of the change is the responsibility of two red squirrels, there early and late. Big part: Not only do the squirrels intimidate a chickadee, they don’t leave a lot of sunflower seed.

Parent robins and Bullock’s orioles still bring their kids to the birdbath. Orioles to the sugar water, too. (Don Cashman was pleased to have Bullock’s orioles in Star Valley). The magpie family has moved on.

Wildflowers putting on a show, attended by pollinating insects, including many butterflies (Bruce Hayse). Some of the insect populations will feast on you, given any chance.

© Bert Raynes 2009


Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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