Living at 8,750′ elevation in the mountains of Colorado, Spring is here for Jean and I, finally! (Although, it’s May 10th, and it has been snowing for two days.)
We saw our first aspen tree catkins of the year on Saturday, April 20. Above is a photo I took of them on April 27. We have quaking aspens, by the way, as opposed to the other two mentioned in the below article.
We heard hummingbirds for the first time and saw one briefly on the feeder, also on April 27. We always see the Broad-tailed Hummingbirds first, pictured below: “Migratory hummingbirds usually in [their] breeding territory about mid-April. They breed across mountain forests and meadows throughout the Western United States from eastern California and northern Wyoming south through Great Basin and Rocky Mountain states to southern Arizona and western Texas. In September, they generally move south to winter in Mexico, Guatemala and, occasionally, El Salvador.” Soon afterwards, the Rufous species of hummingbird shows up here, at our elevation, in Bailey.
As far as Maibocks, I love good beer. These beauties “are brewed in winter and released in late April and May. They are rich yet not overbearing, and are enjoyed before the searing throes of summer.” Aside from that, they are very good to my taste buds at just this time, when the aspen catkins grow, then fall away, after which little green aspen buds appear. Those buds then transform into the quaking, green aspen leaves that most people associate with aspen trees.
But, what of the too-often overlooked, too-little-reflected-upon catkins? The following article, hopefully, will nurture such reflection.
The Aspen Catkin: What will become of this fuzzy little thing?
Kara Rogers – April 13, 2011
Aspens, of which there are three species—the American quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), the American big-tooth aspen (P. grandidentata), and the European aspen (P. tremula)—exhibit several curious traits when it comes to reproduction. For example, each tree is either male or female, a condition known as dioecism, and while both male and female aspens produce catkins, only the male catkin has pollen, which is transferred to a female by the wind. And when the right breeze comes along in early summer, the pollinated female will release her seeds, which parachute along through the air, swept away to some distant place.
Aspens have a low rate of reproductive success. Indeed, it takes trillions of seeds being dispersed on the wind each year to ensure that a percentage sufficient for species propagation happens to parachute into a suitable environment, where they can germinate and sprout. Reproductive success is limited in part because aspens have strict germination constraints. For example, aspens are shade-intolerant, and therefore a seed needs a sunny spot to grow. That spot also must be free from seed-eating animals and able to retain moisture.
Another constraint on reproduction actually is imposed prior to pollination and has to do with the distance between male and female trees. Each aspen grove is a clone, meaning that all the trees in a grove are identical to the founder sapling. Hence, if a female sapling happened to give rise to the grove, all the individual trees in the grove will be female. This means that pollination can occur only if groves of the opposite sex are relatively close to one another. If they are separated by too great a distance, pollination between them is unlikely.
The future of each species of aspen hinges on its tufted catkin seeds, new generations of which face the perilous wind-borne journey every spring. Most do not make it. The ones that do, however, spawn entire groves of aspens—stands of trees that may survive for hundreds or possibly thousands of years.
This post was originally published in NaturePhiles on TalkingScience.org.
top photo by: s.a. bort / 27 April 2019 / Bailey, CO.
second photo by: s.a. bort / 10 May 2019 / Bailey, CO.
Often now, when I go to put the hummingbird feeders out with the sunrise, a single hummingbird flies up close to me while I’m still holding the two feeders. It then drinks from the feeders while I’m still holding them in my hands.
This morning, two hummingbirds came up to me and drank from the feeders while they were still in my hands. In this goofy world, there are still moments that are so heartwarming and magical to me!
by S.A. Bort/3 August 2018
Photo by S.A. Bort/17 August 2013
bounty, business, capitalism, daybreak, dreams, film stars, hummingbirds, Jefferson Airplane, left coast, media, memories, middle America, nature, partisanship, politicians, politics, right coast, sanctuary, solitude, stockholders, television, time, world news
5:50 AM. Air brisk to the face. No wind.
Subdued light with orange horizon. No sun.
Hummingbird feeders, sugary, up as scheduled. No whistly hums yet.
Refreshing solitude. Daybreak.
On the left coast, out-of-touch film stars/media do whatever they do at this hour.
On the right coast, politicized representatives/media do whatever they do.
Now their jets, passing oppositely overhead, steal the silence, largely stockholders profiting non-partisanly from growing businesses.
All of this my view from down here. From bountiful middle-America.
Back inside, opening our living room blinds. Light pours in.
A quick peek at the morning news-of-the-moment on the “plastic, fantastic lover.” Darkness leaks in.
Back to the sanctuary of our bed.
Dreams strain under the puzzling together of nonsensical memories.
By S.A. Bort / 10 August 2018
Photo by S.A. Bort / 16 October 2017
A small footnote to the end of summer.
One chapter ends and another will begin, too soon.
The bigger creatures still fight at the feeders,
Treasuring their sugared water—
Juncos and woodpeckers, and a bandit raccoon.
Nature is always the first to sense change.
With nature, it’s wise to remain friends,
For this writer’s mind too easily now forgets.
Autumn is upon me, but it lurks ominously this time.
I now can feel the darkened air of October and November.
If I could have lingered in the sun—but, away with regrets!
It’s good to move forward and put to rest the past.
It’s good to smile and find better thermal underwear.
It’s good to examine one’s conscience and therapy to write.
Capturing this moment, at least, passes the time.
Better yet, it exercises these shaky hands.
Mostly, as summer turns to fall, I won’t abandon the fight.
poem by S.A. Bort: 15 September 2016
photo by S.A. Bort: 14 September 2016
It’s dawn, and the sun has yet
To spark the horizon.
This low glow illumines
Lime-green aspen leaves in
Infant stages of growth,
Freshly saturated by a cold, hard rain
From the day before.
Birds of various natures
Sing their morning lauds.
Hummingbirds buzz above,
Like locusts, to the feeder water
That I just hung up for them.
Two unaware-of-my-presence deer
Graze in the thickening grass,
In the distance, giving away
Their rosy-brown doe-fur.
I’m in the center–
The turning point, yet,
I feel the audience.
I can’t seem to enter in–
to play the scene.
The feeders are out.
I must return to bed.
photo and poem by S.A. Bort / 7 June 2016