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Ipomopsis, and July 4th at Evergreen Lake

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By Sylvia Brockner

How did it become the 4th of July already? Half the year is gone. Spring and the magical month of May are long gone, but just today I received a copy of the birds recorded at Evergreen Lake during May. It was compiled by Warren Roske from the list displayed on the lake bulletin board by Warren and several other regular visitors, especially Loie Evans, who rarely misses a morning bird walk around the lake.

The count for May 2008 totaled 86 species — the highest count of species seen during the month for the past five years. This does not mean an increase in birds, however, for 31 of the bird species were seen on one day only, and 28 of those were only one single bird.

It does show that a great many species use the little oasis of Evergreen Lake as a stopover on spring migration but that many of these species are declining in numbers. Some are declining for various reasons across their range, and there are so few of them left it is unlikely that more than one of them might turn up here. Others, like the ospreys, were here in April during some early-spring weather and had moved on by May. Still others were absent from our list due to destruction of their habitat locally. These include kestrel due to the fact that the dead tree near the storage buildings, in which they have nested for many years, was cut down. No old tree in which to nest means no kestrel. The absence from the list of Western meadowlark is likewise due to the cutting of the tall grass that formerly grew beyond the fairways and on manicured parts of the golf course.

On the other hand, the parks and recreation people opened the valve to allow more water into the wetlands in May, and this aided nesting mallards, geese and the little sora, as well as a possible Virginia rail, which was reported as “heard” in June. Fishermen as a whole have cooperated by staying out of the wetlands and off the peninsula shore during the breeding season of June and July. Some dog owners are still remiss about cleaning up after their dogs and/or keeping them out of the water.

After all, the lake is the community drinking water supply, and the majority of people try not to cause unnecessary pollution. The 4th of July holiday brought many people to the lake area for concerts, picnicking, golfing, fishing and the usual jogging, hiking and birding. We all love Evergreen Lake, which is the heart of the community. It is used by so many people for so many different activities that it is a real juggling act to manage it.

The 4th of July is also the time that the beautiful wildflower known as skyrocket, or fairy trumpet, comes into blossom. This flower, which was formerly classified in the genus gilia, is now placed in the genus ipomopsis, and there are now four named subspecies of ipomopsis aggregata, which shade from white to various shades of red. The scarlet form that grows so abundantly in the red gravel soil around Pine and Shaffers Crossing often went by the common name of scarlet gilia; now it is probably better called scarlet fairy trumpet or skyrocket for its cluster of brilliant scarlet flower, which resembles a bursting skyrocket.

A sad ending

The song sparrow nest that met such a sad end was not used again. The male hung around for a few days singing but apparently got no response from the female, and he finally wandered off. Normally, they would have tried to have a second brood in a nearby but different location. This makes me wonder if the female, which would have been brooding the very small young on a cool night, was not also killed by whatever predator ate her young. Thanks to all of you who went to the Sundance Nursery to see the nest and for any business you may have given them. Linda very kindly gave me the purple penstemon and nest. The plant is going in my garden, and the nest will go to the Evergreen Nature Center, where it can be used for teaching. The end of a very sad story.