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What’s Next: Green Alert
Final Edition — High Season for Flying Animals
The slow-motion spring now moves into “Green Alert” — the season of leaves and flight. Our lush northern forests will soon be at peak display of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other charismatic airborne insects.
This exercise of mine, tracking the progression of spring — from Red Alert in April to Yellow Alert in May and finally into the Green — began and ends with maples in bloom. Our most elegant maple flower, Striped Maple, in June displays its dangling cascades in hardwoods and mixed woods. Striped Maple was also the perch for that mating pair of Mustard White butterflies (Pieris oleracea) in the banner image above. (These are among our native white butterflies, unlike the Cabbage White [Pieris rapae], of European descent, marauding about your vegetable garden.)
With spring migration concluded, birds now gather bits of the forest to stuff into the gaping beaks of nestlings, effectively transforming seeds, fruits and insects into new life on the wing: the fledglings of June. By my rough calculations, late June into early July also brings us to the greatest diversity and abundance of our most charismatic insects: butterflies and dragonflies. In short, what’s next in nature will be in large part airborne.
Although generally late on the wing this year, butterflies are breaking out all over. On our routine 4.5-mile walk around Montpelier on Tuesday, Ruth and I encountered Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, Harvester, Lucia Azure, Silvery Blue, Eastern Pine Elfin, Red Admiral, Wild Indigo Duskywing and a few other butterfly species. Also late to the game, dragonflies are emerging from waters across the northern forest. Oh, and blackflies and mosquitoes — plenty of those so far this year as well. But, hey, a dragonfly’s gotta eat, you know. Same goes for flycatchers.
So I’ll wrap up my series this spring with a montage, an infinitesimal fraction of what’s already on the wing, in bloom, in leaf or just sitting there decaying beside your long green paths. (Click any image for a bigger view or to start a slideshow.) It only get more sparkling and fluttery from here. Onward!