Summer Thrills and Musings

In the midst of an oppressive heat wave with high humidity, even a trip to the extensive, unbroken forests of the Allegheny Mountains offered little reprieve. Cold, freestone streams remained cold, but the waters were low and the trout sluggish. A good rain would bring them out from their hiding places but it wasn’t to be!

Sunrise over the forested ridges and fog-laden valleys of the Allegheny Mountains

A freestone trout stream, protected from the summer heat by the canopy of a forested watershed

My attention quickly shifted to a world where heat and humidity were a blessing: wild flowers and butterflies. The trees and shrubs of deciduous forests provide a smorgasbord of host plants for the caterpillars of many butterfly species and the adults are apt to swarm floral blooms for nectar. Swallowtails are the main attraction.

Tiger Swallowtails on milkweed

Bee Balm (Oswego Tea; Monarda), escaped into wild places from cultivation and a favorite food source of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Spicebush Swallowtail on Bee Balm

The white variety of native Rhododendron, in full bloom in early July on a moist, shaded site near a mountain stream.

The limiting weather and stream conditions in the mountains led me to break  camp early and return to the comforts of home and the rich, natural world that I know so well. Summer is a time when everyone seems to let their guard down as they go about the business of nurturing young and foraging on Nature’s bounty.

Red Fox pups frolicking in a hay field and playing keep-away with food (1 of 2 images).

The resident groundhog (woodchuck) foraging on dandelion leaves.

A “bachelor group” of whitetail bucks in velvet, heading for a field of corn.

July is our peak butterfly month and they have no interest in the “golden hour”. Mid day is their time to flutter. Depending on the species, the goal might be flower nectar, tree sap or minerals in a carcass or mud puddle!

Sulphur butterflies “puddling” in the mud on a nature trail.

Photos by NB Hunter (July, 2020). © All rights reserved.

Dead Zones Beckon

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“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir

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White Pine tree and Appalachian Mountains

“Keep close to Nature’s heart…and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”  – John Muir

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Mature Eastern Hemlock trees on the floodplain of a mountain stream

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

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Puddling swallowtails seeking moisture, nutrients and enhanced reproductive success from the mud near a mountain spring

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Maidenhair Fern after a rainy night

“How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains.” – John Muir

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Wild Columbine

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Wild Mountain Azalea

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the      universe.” – John Muir

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Free-stone mountain stream

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American Merganser on an early morning perch above a beaver pond

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Newly hatched mayfly dun on the surface film of a mountain stream

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Mergansers

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.