June’s Gifts

The moisture in May’s late and only significant precipitation event, as devastating as it was on some levels, nonetheless brought sustenance to the surviving vegetation and assured the growth and blossoming of several flowers, even if they were endowed with less vigor than following a wet spring.

Having encouraged a number of wildflower patches in our garden for a number of years, we are once again blessed with a profusion of Colorado’s state flower, the Colorado Columbine (Aquilegia coerulea). Considered by some to resemble a dove (columba means dove in Latin) and by others to be reminiscent of an eagle’s claw (from Latin aquila, for eagle), the typical blue blossoms are not the only possible manifestation of this species. Pink, purple, red, and yellow varieties have successfully established themselves and it has been our experience that the color yellow tends to assert itself over other hues as the individual plant ages.

Prairie Spiderwort also emerge in June, starting with a few isolated blooms here and there and advancing across more expansive areas. Their beautiful petals are no less cerulean than our state flower’s. Earlier observers were reminded of a spider, either because of the angular leaf attachment suggestive of the legs of a sitting spider, or because of the stringy, mucilaginous sap that strings out like a spider’s web—or both.

To enlarge a photo, click on it. To read its caption, hover cursor over it.

All of us know about the crucial role milkweed plays for monarchs and we are glad the fluffy seeds took to our rock garden after a slow start. Not only have the milkweed and columbine clusters graced this viewer, they have played graceful hosts to numerous insects besides. Sphinx or hawk moths, which are also known as hummingbird moths because of their size and ability to hover near a flower like their avian counterparts with whom they are often confused, have been bountiful this spring season and watching them flit from one nectar-bearing vessel to the next and insert their lengthy proboscises into the calyx (or, in the case of columbines, the deep spurs below where the sweet substance is stored), is as mesmerizing as following the undulating flight of their swallowtail relatives who are showing their spectacular selves in ever-growing numbers.

To avoid the worst of the heat of the woefully frequent (and sadly increasing) June days when the thermometer climbs into the 85 to 95 degree F range (30 to 35 degrees C), I do my gardening and walking early in the morning. It was on such an early morning that I happened upon a beaver in the process of finishing his night’s labors, the harvesting and ferrying of clumps of aquatic plants to his home. He would go on to spend the day in his comfortably cool lodge. Not so the throngs of turtles who lounge languidly in the midday heat and who epitomize the essence of sun worshippers. Maybe knowing that it’s always possible to dive into the water for a quick cool-down makes the loafing more pleasurable.

After May’s migration frenzy, our year-round and summer resident birds are busy raising their families and swallow and phoebe nestlings are among my happy-making observations. One very special morning at one of my favorite destinations holds my first-ever encounter with impossibly cute black balls of fluffness on stilts—the juvenile offspring of the Virginia Rails I told you about earlier this year. At this stage of their development, I see in them very little—if any—resemblance to their parents.

Mercifully, June has brought a few relatively cool stretches and as I’m writing these lines on the last weekend of the month, the dry spell which followed May’s late snowfall is finally coming to an end, thanks to a duo of deliciously damp and drizzly days. Rain and mist are soaking the soil, dowsing the flora, and turning the green greener before our eyes. I hope July’s showers won’t be long in coming.

36 thoughts on “June’s Gifts

  1. Happy cooling and moistening to you.

    Your first captioned photograph reveals that German has transformed the original Aquilegia into Akelei. That reminds me of “Die Lorelei,” which in turn raises the question of whether you’ll follow in Heinrich Heine’s steps by writing a poem called Die Akelei.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. We are gratefully anticipating another cool weekend with several potential showers.

      It was interesting to follow your train of thought from Aquilegia to Akelei to Lorelei. While I could sing you the musical version of Heine’s poem, I’m not sure I could write a poem that would do these lovely flowers justice.


      • My one year of German more than half a century ago doesn’t stand me in good enough stead to do what’s needed. In the second line I wanted an adjective that meant ‘beautiful’ but that had the same meter as the original traurig. Everything I could find online had either one syllable or three, until eventually I came across strahlend. You’re much better equipped as a native speaker to continue.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Morning. It’s comfortable, temperature-wise, as I write this. But it’s headed up to almost 90 degrees F, I think. Too hot! Your essay got me wondering if I’ve ever seen a beaver in the wild. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Neil. I hope you will get some relief from your heat. We are actually looking forward to another series of cooler and wet days, for which we are thankful.

      If you would like to see a beaver, which is very cool, you might want to find out which parks in your vicinity have beaver-made ponds and lodges, and then try to spend a little time there early or late in the day. It’s fun to watch them.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Eliza. I’m glad you also find columbines pleasing. They have really taken to an area in front of our house and it makes me happy when walkers stop and admire then, and when insects stop and visit them. When I see my first lazuli bunting seek out the feeders in late April or early May, I know that migration is underway.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Peter. It’s really quite amazing to watch how quickly the plants respond to the moisture. Nature is wonderfully resilient (to a point, of course), and if it weren’t for that fact, I think all of us would be in even deeper environmental trouble than we are.


  3. Oh my friend, June has presented some beautiful gifts indeed.
    I am so glad I decided to wait to read this first thing in the morning. It really has made my day and encourages me to stay hopeful and positive despite the ongoing challenges in the world and in our daily life.

    All my best,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Takami,
      Thank you for your kind words. Knowing that my post brought you a little joy brought me a lot! I hope you are able to spend as much time in nature as you need to maintain some level of sanity. It’s definitely the most rewarding and fulfilling way to spend my days.
      Take care,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Tanja, for your warm wishes. I (and I am sure your other blog followers feel the same!) always look forward to your posts.

        As you say, spending time in nature helps us maintain a sense of sanity and perspective. I do hope you will be able spend more time in your beautiful surroundings for the summer too.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Das sind ganz zauberhafte Bilder liebe Tanja.
    So schön zu sehen was bei dir wächst und blüht und natürlich dürfen deine geliebten Vögel nicht fehlen.
    Ich wünsche dir einen guten Tag.
    Liebe Grüße Brigitte

    Liked by 1 person

  5. June appears to have been very kind to you, with so many sights to savour here. Your Hummingbird Hawk Moth is super, and I’m a big fan of Swallowtail butterflies but rarely see them here so I’m insanely jealous of your sighting. I’m equally envious of the Lazuli Bunting, Yellow Warbler, beaver and turtles…but as for your 85 to 95 degree temperatures, you’re welcome to keep them 🙂.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, Mr. P: June was kind, except for those hot days neither you nor I want. But I’m happy to share all the good and beauty the month brought.

      But I have a dilemma. I knew previous photos of lynx made you envious. Must I now apologize to you for seeming to create an entire list of wildlife sightings to be envious of? If you are green after looking at some of my photos, will you hold me responsible? In that case I might need to add a disclaimer to my blog. Something to the effect of: If you haven’t seen X, Y, and Z and are prone to envy, please refrain from reading this post as it might be harmful to your equanimity. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your response to my comment made me chuckle heartily over my breakfast this morning! Does causing “critter envy” amongst your readership count as a cruel and unusual punishment under the US Constitution? 🙂

        As it happens I have seen all the birds and beasts I referred to in my comment, just not nearly often enough or as close to me as you seem to have achieved. Your blog brought back so many happy memories of the wildlife we’ve seen in the US over the course of maybe 20 visits, although these memories are tinged with a little sadness as I fear that chapter in my life may be at an end.

        Some of the best days in my life have been spent enjoying the natural world in North America, and through your blog I can still do so, albeit vicariously. So please keep on blogging about the birds and the beasts all around you, confident in the knowledge that I will always forgive you for the critter envy you may induce in me 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Let’s s hope you didn’t choke when you ate breakfast and chuckled at the same time! I rather hope that the pleasure of reliving some of your North American nature moments will outweigh the critter envy I might engender. 😊

        I have no idea if the American Constitution has any meaningful role to play in the future. But since everybody seems to interpret it in their own special way, you might as well do the same.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh my gosh, that baby rail was just precious! My favorite flower is Columbine and grew many varieties in Scotland. June has been kind to you! We finally got rain too and my plants have perked up a tad – expecting tropical rain for the next two days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for noticing that rail, Kerry. Seeing it was definitely one of the highlights of this month.

      I now know there are various species of columbines in Europe but didn’t learn about them until I moved to Colorado, where they are very prevalent, and famous, of course.

      I’m glad your heat finally abated some and your plants are starting to recover. Let’s hope July and August won’t be too miserably hot! And that your predicted rain won’t cause any problems!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a delightful collection of flora and fauna, Tanja. I was particularly taken with the young rail. Without any context, I could easily have mistaken it for a Common Moorhen chick. They’re little balls of black fluff, too, with bits of red on their beaks. It’s always fun to see plants we share — in this case, the geranium and spiderwort — and that lavender columbine just knocks me out. The only ones I’ve seen here are red and yellow; as I recall, they’re native here, too. But the color of yours is so pretty.

    If I had just glanced at the beaver, I might have mistaken it for one of our nutria. They swim the same way, with their heads out of the water, but they have a rat-like tail, and I think are somewhat smaller.

    I’m glad you’re getting some rain. We’ve had a bit more, too, although nearer the Texas/Louisiana border there was as much as 4″-9″ in isolated spots. We’ve had another inch, and if we could get that every few days, it would be wonderful. But, we take what we’re given!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda. The fact that there are so many different columbine color variants adds a layer of suspense, as we never know if and how they might change from year to year. I think one of the distinguishing features between the rail and moorhen is the length of the legs of the former. They appeared like fluffballs on stilts, and I was quite taken with them.

      I know Nutria’s from Germany, but we don’t have them in Colorado. Instead, we have muskrats, but the difference in size and tail usually helps distinguish them from beavers.

      Let’s hope you and we will continue to benefit from rain showers. Yesterday’s storm skipped us, but dumped 2 to 3 inches on several areas near Pueblo, causing some flooding. 8 to 9 inches all at once sound scary. How nice it would be if that rainfall arrived in 1/2 inch increments over extended periods of time.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have struggled to get some milkweed growing here, but alas with no success. You’d think that being called a mildWEED it would be easy to get a native going here, but so far zilch for all the effort I’ve put in. 🥴 Good to see you’ve had some moisture. Ours seems to have come to an end… for now. We hold our breath for the rains to return perhaps as early as September???

    Liked by 1 person

    • It took several years for the milkweed to grow after we spread the seed, but luckily, it has been returning every year since, even to the point where we have to control it a little. So maybe some of yours will still surprise you one of these summers.
      I hope your July and August won’t be too hot and dry. We have enjoyed a few July showers already and hope it will continue in the same vein.


  9. It’s wonderful to see what a little rain can do and, of course, a lot of rain might have produced even more. But we must be happy with what we are given and it appears your gardens and immediate area provided quite a lot.
    We have phoebes nesting in our yard most every year but their preferred location is under the eaves of our shed so it is impossible to get a shot of them. I imagine I could make a hole and cover it with something then photograph from the roof but my acrophobia would make that difficult. 🙂 How lucky that you got to see the rail. What a cute little ball of “fur”. And your columbine are delightful and very beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are grateful for all the moisture we receive, Steve, and considering what kind of dry and windy spring we had, things are remarkably green.

      I still relish those fleeting moments when I caught glimpses of the baby rails, especially since it was the first time I had ever seen any.

      How lucky that you had a phoebe choose your shed to nest. Maybe you will be able to get a few photos when the young ones have fledged and will perch out in the open.

      Liked by 1 person

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