New arrivals

The heat is stimulating plants and animals — at least that’s the way it seems in my yard this morning. First, I’m happy to announce that I spotted a half dozen sugar snap peas emerging this morning from the bed where I planted them. I always worry that something has gone wrong until I see their deep green growing tips pushing through to sunlight. No signs of the lettuces, spinach, carrots, or beets yet, but I am hopeful.

The heat has also caused my Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’ to begin opening its fuzzy buds at the top of the tree. It’s about 12 feet tall after 15 years of growing, and when it’s fully open, it is stunning. I planted mine beneath the shelter of some mature pines. This protects the delicate petals from frost damage and shades the little tree from the worst of our summer sun.

During my early morning walk along the floodplain, I unintentionally disturbed the Wood Duck couple I told you about a few days ago. However, I got a further surprise as I continued on my creek inspection. Four more wood ducks took to the air, the female shrieking as usual. If my ears didn’t deceive me, I think I only heard one female, which means the other three birds pursuing her were males. I was too far away to visually identify their genders.

On the one hand, I am excited that more Wood Ducks are nearby. However, I fear that their presence indicates competition for limited local resources among their species. Much deforestation has happened around me in the last few years. Without forest cover, the creeks and ponds that dot my area have dried up considerably under our unrelenting high summer temperatures and persistent drought conditions. I worry that the ducks showed up at my creek, because their old nesting sites have been destroyed.

I haven’t researched how much territory a pair of nesting Wood Ducks prefers. I hope it isn’t much. My stretch of creek is only a few hundred yards long. However, if they can find a way to manage among themselves, these beautiful native birds will always be welcome in my yard.

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