By Susanne Harrison
We met a baby snake yesterday while walking around Fawn Lake. He was coiled in a wooded area, lying on leaves in dappled sun. We think it was a baby garter snake because they are common around here, but he was mostly black and without the typical yellow stripes of an adult garter snake. Perhaps he hadn’t earned his stripes yet.
The snake was about 12-14 inches long and displayed a fierce attitude. When we got too near, he raised his head about four inches and opened his mouth to threaten us. His head was about the size of a small lima bean and and he opened his mouth wide enough for us to see the pink flesh of the interior. It was almost cute!
The talk of the summer has been heat, and the drought that has been labeled “extreme” by the Northeast Regional Climate Center. As everyone has seen, the grass on sunny lawns is completely dry and brittle, and shaded areas are only slightly better off. Some leaves on trees are drooping and many trees look generally stressed. According to my personal record from our rain gauge, we had one inch of rain on June 5, but since then, only occasional showers leaving a trace or less than half an inch of water. Rain amounts in neighboring towns or even nearby neighborhoods has varied considerably. Trees in our area have already been stressed for the past two decades, first with the gypsy moth infestation, and more recently with winter moths. As the winter moths seem to have faded this summer, I have noticed some gypsy moth activity in town again.
Recently on NPR, a local farmer reported that they had hardly any rain all summer. Of course he uses irrigation, but the strawberry plants are still not as tall as they should be and he had to abandon some crops. His irrigation pond is running dry. A dairy farmer has to buy feed and hay because those crops are particularly vulnerable to drought and have failed. I too have been irrigating my garden, hose in hand, just standing there. We have only used the sprinkler a few times because I know water is limited and my recent water bill was eye popping. We have an old air conditioning system that drips water out the back and we have placed a bucket under the drips to collect the water and pour it on the plants. I have a few new bushes that we do water regularly to keep them from dying. Otherwise, older bushes are left to the whims of nature.
The level of water in Fawn Lake is low and the stream leaving the pond is dry. Water lilies with beautiful white lotus flowers are abundant but there are few ducks, no Canada geese, and no swans. There are occasional painted turtles warming in the sun on a branch over the pond. There is evidence of beaver activity, namely large felled trees near the outflow at Springs Road, but the beavers do not appear to be currently in residence.
We have been enjoying the antics of hummingbirds frequenting our feeders. They fly with amazing speed and often quarrel with other hummingbirds and fight for position at the feeders. There are more of them now that their broods have hatched and the young have fledged. Suddenly, one day in early fall, they will disappear to begin their journey south to Mexico and Central America for the winter. Maybe by then it will have rained.