Sunday, May 13, 2012

May 12: Sap sippers

I visited the Ducktrap River Preserve early and spent several hours exploring and watching/listening for birds. The hemlock-shaded uplands resonated with bird song: Blackburnian, black-throated blue, and black-throated green warblers, ovenbirds, pine siskins, kinglets, and blue-headed vireos made their presence known, while down the bluff, the river rushed ever on. For a long time I sat in a patch of sun on an old fallen log and just let the music of it all tumble through the warm air around me.

The sunshine seemed to have awakened quite a few butterflies, as well, of few of which I could even recognize: red admiral, comma, and question mark. I was particularly interested to note several butterflies, mostly question marks, fluttering around a stand of birch trees. Looking closely, I could see where a yellow-bellied sapsucker--a local species of woodpecker--had drilled a few small "wells" in the trunks. The butterflies were gathering on these wells, sipping birch sap. At one, a butterfly seemed to be vying with a corps of largish red and black ants for the sap. These butterflies wintered over and now renew their energy with this sap thanks to the sapsucker. The sapsucker's only thought, of course, was for itself, but it also benefited the insects without even realizing. Ah, the workings of Nature...

Sipping spring birch sap,
ethereal butterflies--
even they must eat.
Question Mark

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