Well, we finally had a spate of spring-like weather. On Saturday, a phoebe was calling around my house, joining the two-week siege of grackle, redwing blackbird, cardinal, Carolina wren, and tufted titmouse calling and singing. Phoebes show up when the insects begin popping out, and they started popping out over the weekend like mad.
Skunk cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus, is a plant of the Northern Hemisphere and a species that occurs throughout most of North America except for in the South and West. A flowering plant in the Jack-in-the-pulpit family, it is one of the first plants to flower each year and thus is a true harbinger of spring. The second half of its scientific name refers to its fetid smell, not unlike the effluvia emitted by a defensive skunk or the scent a red fox uses to mark its territory.
One more storm and then spring’s a-poppin’. In Noyac on Friday daffodils and daylilies began to sprout. Two weeks ago skunk cabbages were in bloom in Morton Wildlife Refuge in Noyac and at Big Reed Pond in Montauk. As of last Friday, deer ticks, both the blackish males and reddish-backed females, were crawling onto shoes, socks, and trousers in the shrub lands in Montauk east of the lake.
Last Thursday, Karen Blumer, Vicki Bustamante, and I went north to Albany. After leaving Long Island it was bedrock all the way north along the Hudson River. The advance of the last ice sheet of the Wisconsin glaciation purportedly carved out the river basin that is over a mile wide in some places and stretches a good 200 miles. It is oriented north to south, so it makes sense that a quarter-mile-high glacier coming from Canada would be capable of making such a deep gouge and simultaneously creating the Palisades along the west side.
You hardly hear anyone call it Lake Munchogue these days. The Hagstrom Suffolk County Atlas still has it down by its Native-American name, while including Oyster Pond in parentheses below. Many of the other water bodies on the South Fork retained names derived from the local dialects of the Algonkian language since settlement. There are Shinnecock, Noyac, and Mecox Bays as well as Lake Agawam, Poxabogue, Wickatuck, and Sagaponack Ponds and Sebonac Creek in Southampton Town. While in East Hampton there are Accabonac and Napeague Harbors and Napeague Bay.
Monday morning, the yard covered with a thick blanket of snow, but hints of global warming — six male robins and some starlings visited the privet and sniped the dark berries one by one. They were at it yesterday as well. The berries looked black, but when digested and defecated, they left deep purple stains in the snow. Privet berries must be emergency rations for berry-eating robins, which never feed on seed or suet.