Henderson feathers Report 7/8/24

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Today’s Henderson youngsters will remember the flood of June/July 2024 for years to come.
The flood and apprehension that went with it may last a lifetime. A question posed frequently the last couple of weeks is, “Where do the small helpless creatures move to?”
Once upon a day when flooding occurred at the same time period as the Natures Neighbors program, the Henderson levee was the natural place to flee. Thus an abundance of snakes, frogs, toads, mice and the like would be found flattened on the dike. This year, 2024, was different in that the rains persisted until the earth was saturated. Dens and nests remain water-logged at present.

As evidenced by creatures seeking high ground, fawns, adult white-tailed deer, beaver, opossum, an occasional skunk, etc., have been obvious lying on the sides of both highways and gravel roads, victims of speeding motorists. Turkey vultures are making the most of the unexpected repast, no scant diet for them. We wondered about mice and their kin, and found them climbing trees while seeking safety from the deluge. It’s a story of adapt or perish is it not?

Farm fields, planted earlier than the deluges, have accrued huge lakes in many cases, with drowned crops turning yellow. If a farmer was fortunate, corn fields find that crop “taller than an elephants’ eye.” Gardens and gardeners have been highly affected by wet earth. Many have given up as weeds are doing well, while lawns cry out to be trimmed twice a week in many cases. Pheasant chicks, barely hatched, have taken a major hit, while turkey poults have been swept away in many cases before able to forage with parents. Local swan nests, eggs laid for the future, were swamped early on, leaving locals, Sylvia and Sylvan, with no offspring in 2024, as they do not re-nest. Those local swans return to familiar nests to find them under water. Times are tough for humans and beasts.

Wet earth and plants have yielded an abundance of insects, as folks who live for nature experiences are more than uncomfortable with an explosion of gnats, mosquitos and ticks. On the other wing, we’ve observed just five monarch butterflies the last few days, nectering on…Canada thistles! Three of those we’ve experienced were reared from egg to adult in a net cage. For us, this is an all-time low.

This week’s newest adventure was coming antennae to antennae or feeler to feeler with a couple of slugs. Yes, two of the cutsies showed up in a nursery-wrapped rose bush. Due to the drought of the past summers, we’ve encountered none of the critters until July 3rd. Slimy to the touch, slugs are intriguing beasties of the clam and oyster family believe it or not. Chewing their way through seedlings, ripe fruits and vegetables, they leave a slime trail; the slime is necessary for movement from one food source to another.

Harmless unless slugs occur in large numbers, this is a most favorable summer for them, along with Colorado potato beetles. The beetles got ahead of us, appearing suddenly in the larval form by the hundreds. After picking and squishing a dozen chubby larvae, we knew our chances of eliminating them were slim, thus we sprayed the wretches with soapy water.
Now we must watch for the “ones that got away,” as the hardbacked adult female can lay over 300 eggs (which hatch in just a couple of weeks) according to Google. If you see one or the other of us lying among our 12 potato hills, readers will know we’re on the prowl for beetles. Another opt may be that we’re watching the grass grow, anticipating another mowing soon and very soon. Enjoy July to the fullest, but beware of the blood sucking mosquito vampires!