nature (ducks) 4.26

April showers bring May flowers, or so the old song goes. If it’s true, there should be lots and lots of flowers because there sure have been lots and lots of showers.

Rain comes in so many forms. There’s the quiet drizzle, the random spit, the sprinkle, the soft, quiet rain and the downpour. There’s the steady rain, intermittent rain and rain that comes down in buckets. There’s welcome rain and flooding rain. It’s all wet, but I think we’d all agree there’s a bit of a difference between a good soaking and a runaway flood.

As I write, we are between wettings. The last few days have held significant rainfall, and the ground is saturated, still puddled in many areas. This is great for the creatures and plants that like a little flooding and a lot of saturation. Amphibians and mosses come to mind. For many, however, sitting in water day in and day out is not only uncomfortable but may mean weakness and even death. Earthworms like damp weather but they can drown in puddles as we all know. Some plants can withstand a lot of water, but the water must drain away if the plants are to remain healthy and without mold or mildew.

One thing the rain and warmer temperatures have definitely done is bring in the green. Leaves are popping out all over and the greening of the landscape has begun. Shadbush is blooming, and soon flowering trees and shrubs will grace our yards, meadows and woodlands. Orioles, catbirds and hummingbirds will arrive with the flowering and warblers will soon fill our woodlands with songs, buzzes and trills.

Many insects do well in wet, warm weather and as the area dries, we should notice more flying insects around, including mosquitoes. Ticks like damp weather as well, so be aware when going out walking once the rains have passed. The flying insects will mean lots of fresh protein for nesting swallows and bluebirds, phoebes and warblers. Fat worms will feed robins and thrushes, grackles and towhees.

Skunks will be out nosing around for grubs in leaf litter and lawns and moles will be feasting in their underground tunnels. With the April rains come the abundance of early spring that will supply our nesting birds and animals with food and fresh water.

Recently I’ve been hearing from readers distraught over the loss of tulips and other plants to rabbits and squirrels. One told a sad tale of trapping a rabbit in a have-a-heart trap. The rabbit injured itself quite severely trying to escape the trap and had to be euthanized. It was a nursing mother rabbit desperate to return to her young.

We live in a world we share with wildlife. I find that many people think rabbits are cute until they eat their flowers or lettuce. Squirrels become fluffy-tailed menaces and deer become the enemy. As frustrating as it may be to watch the groundhogs chow down on your veggie garden, please consider building fences before putting out poison or traps. It is illegal to trap and move wildlife, and poison moves through the food chain in ways that threaten many other animals and birds, including neighborhood pets.

Maybe growing tulips won’t work if you have a lot of rabbits. Maybe you need tall fences to keep out the deer. Gardens are fun to work in and beautiful to behold. They are, however, artificial in most cases. Think about all the poisons necessary to grow roses and many other ornamental plants. Don’t be fooled by Bt or other “natural” garden aids. Bacillus thuringiensis kills ALL lepidoptera—and that means ALL butterfly and moth larvae, not just the winter moths or other unwanted caterpillars. It’s natural. So are most poisons. That doesn’t make them any less dangerous.

If waiting out the rain teaches us anything, perhaps it is to go with the flow. Grow what grows naturally and enjoy the rabbits, squirrels and deer. Think of it as a privilege to have them visit your gardens and homes. Co-existence is a wonderful thing. Now, let’s see some sun.

Mary Richmond is an artist, writer, naturalist, and educator who grew up on the Cape and lives in Hyannis. More information is at www.capecodartandnature.com.

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