Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Migration Has Begun!

By | Birds | One Comment

I figured we were probably well into migration season, since the Juncoes are gone and Thrush-Bob, the Hermit Thrush that overwintered on our deck, has left for more northerly pastures. (We wish him well. Likely we will never see him again, but I like to think that his steady diet of mealworms over the long winter have made him a big, sturdy thrush.* Go, Thrush-Bob! Have a zillion fledglings!)

I was peering out the window at some birds bathing in the pond—pair of Chipping Sparrows, a cute little common sparrow—and I saw something small land on the far side of the pond, next to a clump of spiderwort.

If I hadn’t seen it come in, I would have missed it entirely—a very drab little bird. Grey head, white eye-ring, yellow breast. By that I knew it was a warbler, and Sibley narrowed it down the rest of the way. My garden had been, at least for a moment, host to a Nashville Warbler. (No, they don’t sing country, so far as I know.)

That’s bird #60 on the yard list, which is not bad at all, and a lifer for me.

What I always think in these cases is that I would never have seen it if I hadn’t looked in the exact right place at the exact right time. So I wonder how many birds are passing through the garden unspotted, unidentified, and unrecorded. Which is the sort of thing that can drive a birder crazy, if they think about it too much…


*The cats are sad that Thrush TV is now off-air, and can be found mooching around the windows, hoping for re-runs.

Oh my freakin’ god.

By | Stuff In My Yard | 6 Comments

So apparently the world is divided into two groups.

People who know that lawn crayfish exist, and people who go “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!”

Up until an hour ago, I belonged to the latter group.

And then I was idly raking leaves off some tender plants in the narrow, soggy flowerbed alongside the garage wall, and I happened to glance down into the burrow.

The burrow that has been there since last year. The burrow that I thought had some kind of rodent in it.

There was a crustacean claw in it.

Attached to a crustacean.

Apparently this is a thing in the South.

Well, what else was I going to name him?

I can’t tell the species. At a guess, it’s either a devil crayfish or a Greensboro burrowing crayfish, which are the two good color matches, or it’s one of a dozen crayfish that have no common names and not much in the way of photos but exist in lawns throughout the South. (It is not the common red crayfish, as he is murky gray-brown.)

I did what anybody does when they learn that an aquatic creature is living in their flowerbed–I went to Twitter screaming “HOW IS THIS MY LIFE!?!”

Several people informed me that yes. This is a thing that happens.

Everyone else on earth assumed I was drunk or insane or being an artist or engaging in some obscure form of collaborative fiction, possibly with Seanan McGuire. (Which would be awesome, don’t get me wrong, but no. The crayfish really exists.)

Some species, apparently, live in lawns. Anywhere with a high water table, say. And at night they come out and walk around the lawn.

There is a five-inch crayfish walking around my garden on ten legs right this minute while I’m typing.

Not gonna lie. That kinda squicks me out a little. I mean, I love animals well beyond the point of sanity and reason, but…dude, it is walking around out there. A freakin’ LOBSTER is WALKING in my garden.

(I poked a stick down the hole. It grabbed the stick. I pulled it partway out. It is a good five inches long. No, I’m not going to eat him.)

So. Um. South? Are you listening?

Nobody else knows you have burrowing crayfish.

This is not like having gophers or rats or pigeons. This is…like…NOBODY has lawn crayfish. Nobody in the rest of the country thinks this is a thing. You need to TELL people this is a thing. Preferably when they enter the state. There should be signs posted on the “Welcome to North Carolina” sign that says “BY THE WAY, WE HAVE LAWN CRAYFISH.”

It would be like having a tree octopus. Or squid that roost in the attic like bats. It is not a thing that the rest of the country is aware of. It is weird.


That said, I guess he’s been there for a year now, and he’s not hurting anything, near as I can tell. They appear to mostly cause cosmetic damage to lawns (which I don’t have) and they are also apparently nearly impossible to remove, and if this is a Greensboro burrowing crayfish, it’s a species of Special Concern that may actually be endangered except we don’ t know enough to get good data, so…well…

I guess I have a crayfish.

And this is my life.

Hot Green World

By | Day-to-Day | No Comments

Spring, after wandering around aimlessly and hiding behind winter for some weeks, just landed on the garden like a ton of bricks.

We had two eighty-degree days and then it rained all night. I woke up this morning, looked out the window, and the world was GREEN.

Not just any green, of course. That hot, new-leaf green, the kind that makes you wonder why green is ever considered a cool color, a blazing green of unutterable greenness. They do not make greens like this at any other time.

The hickories are the greenest offenders, but the maples and sweetgums are working hard to catch up.

Everything in the garden just exploded. It may not have been overnight, but it was close. Plants that were a small basal rosette for weeks are suddenly a foot tall with flower spikes. The foamflower went from “dormancy” to “LOOK AT ME I HAVE FLOWERS LOOK AT MY FLOWERS I AM AWESOME” at a dead run. I spend over an hour a day roaming around the yard, and I STILL find new plants out of the blue that I didn’t see the day before. (Logic says that I must have overlooked them, but they’re also going at the speed of a galloping racehorse.)

You drive down the road and the trees are every shade from chartreuse to dark pine. My cherry tree has lost all its flowers and is now covered in green. The native plum is doing the same. Plants that I never expected to survive are throwing flowers. (Columbine! I have a columbine! I have NEVER successfully overwintered a columbine, and every time somebody said “But they’re practically weeds!” it was a dagger in my gardening heart. And there it is!)

Also, Operation Jewelweed appears to have been a smashing success. And by smashing, I mean “the way Godzilla smashes Tokyo.” Hmm.

There are over twenty frogs in the pond. I think the salamander eggs either hatched or were eaten or have been covered by algae or something. The cricket frogs fling themselves out from underfoot with every step.

Tomorrow I’ll have to plant out cucumbers and melons, because I don’t think we’re getting much of a spring this year. I suspect we will be propelled directly into summer without stopping. Some of the beans are up. I planted out pitcher plant seeds, which were promptly drowned by the rain, so…maybe not. But we’ll see.

It is glorious out. I can hardly stand to stay inside, and if I didn’t have books to write, I don’t know if I would.