Tuesday, April 24, 2012

With The Good Comes The Not So Good

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

With The Good Comes The Not So Good

As I drove to Wilmington during the third week in March, I was amazed by the amount of Carolina jasmine growing everywhere. When I arrived at my destination, the azaleas and pear trees were in full bloom. All of these happenings seemed to be weeks earlier than usual.

My guess was that our unusually warm winter had something to do with the early spring. Come to find out, they even have a name for it, the Jumanji effect, named after the 1995 movie starring Robin Williams in which animals emerged from a board game to terrorize people.

In this case, the animals will be bears and other hibernating creatures in some parts of the country that will emerge from their dens early and be ravenously hungry before nature is fully ready for them. If they can’t find food, they may have to invade human territory sooner or later.

One of the things that fascinates me in so many aspects of life is that often good events have a flip side that may not be so good. All of us have been grateful for the warmer winter resulting in lower heating bills. We are about to experience some of the other outcomes of the record mild winter which in a way disturbed some aspects of our ecosystem.

All forms of insects including mosquitoes will be with us in greater numbers this summer. Farmers may have larger harvest, but they will have to battle insects and other hungry creatures. Greater production may mean lower prices.

The tick population will not only increase but will be spread by the larger numbers of deer that lived through the winter. Since ticks carry Lyme disease, we may experience an increase of that problem.

Agricultural extension agent Tom Campbell reports that fire ants are already being seen in large numbers, and he recommends they should be poisoned promptly to prevent their spread. Each untreated mound may generate 20-50 new mounds by mid-summer, if left alive to spread.

Mr. Campbell says he personally has killed 8 mounds in January, a couple dozen in February, and more than a score in March and April so far. By this time last year, he had only killed two. He thinks that if we get regular rain, we’ll definitely have many more mounds this year than last.

Local gardeners and farmers have been able to plant things much earlier and strawberries, asparagus, spinach, radishes, lettuce, and other early fruits and veggies are ready for picking.

Agent Campbell also predicts that we will have a bountiful supply of pecans, and the animals will enjoy a large harvest of mast which includes acorns, hickory nuts, and other nuts and fruits borne by wild plants. Thus, they will be well provided for in the coming winter.

As with all things in life, we have to take the good with the bad.

Check out this video about 'Jumanji effect and global weather patterns' ::

For more information visit this website: http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/Publications/Research-and-Development/Environmental/EMEP-Publications/Response-to-Climate-Change-in-New-York.aspx

Monday, April 16, 2012

Slow and Steady...

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Slow and Steady...

Delaware Indians called them “sticky heels,” and they are well known for their perseverance and wisdom. If you asked me what animal I think that I most resemble, I would tell you I’m a turtle.

Once, our daughter looked at hubby and me relaxing in our brown leather recliners and laughingly proclaimed us her “turtles” because she said we looked like we had rolled over and couldn’t get up. The list of similarities identified by our children between us and the longest living vertebrates continued to grow.

When we travel, we like to be self-sufficient taking our comforts (pillows, snacks, beverages, etc.) with us. I drive the speed limit or under. Remember, “55, stay alive.” We usually don’t stray too far from home and like familiar things.

Finally, my license plate says “Turtles.”

When we were in college at East Carolina University and traveling home on weekends, if we saw a turtle crossing the road, we stopped and put it on the side of the road in the direction in which it was headed. Thus began our attachment to the reptiles.

This year we’ve already seen several box turtles in the yard probably foraging for food, seeking warmth in the sunshine, or looking for a place to lay their eggs. Because they move so slowly, they are one of the few wild creatures that you can examine closely without bothering them.

The April/May edition of the National Wildlife magazine contains an informative article by Janet Marinelli about box turtles (click here to check out the article). Like so many animals today, their habitat is being threatened by land development and poachers who sell them as pets.

In 1979, the NC General Assembly designated the turtle as the official state reptile. Although they appear to be mundane creatures, they contribute to the environment in many ways.

March through October are active months when they lay eggs, gain weight, and eat almost anything that crosses their path including insect pests, snails and slugs. They are also considered valuable agents in the process of spreading seeds.

Seeds of plants such as mayapple, pokeweed, elderberry, persimmon, and summer and frost grapes benefit from passing through the gut of turtles which increases their germination.

Female turtles can often be seen digging depressions in which they will lay their eggs. Unfortunately, they are sometimes eaten by raccoons, foxes, or crows. Female box turtles can actually store sperm which allows them to produce eggs for several years.

You can attract turtles to your yard by cultivating wild species that produce fruit that they favor. Leave areas of natural leaf litter mulch where they can sleep. Clear, sunny areas are perfect for basking and laying their eggs while shady moist areas provide places for them to spend the hot summer days.

Try to walk around your yard before you mow because lawnmowers like cars are treacherous for the reptiles. Finally, take a lesson from the turtles, and slow down yourself.
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