Grabbing bugs from the local maple.Somehow, the forest seems to have a much richer appearance this year than normal, like a photograph shot with color saturation selected to Vivid. A friend suggested it’s because of all the rain we have been experiencing. If this keeps up, apples peaches and other fruit should be larger and juicer than normal, as well.

The other thing I have been noticing more is the proliferation of small critters. For instance, we have ants. We always have ants, but not like this year. Usually we get those tiny black things, maybe a whole one-eighth inch long, in large armies that wander in the kitchen until the ground thaws and they can set about mining the ground outside.

This year was similar in that they were inside and now they are out, but they are all over the place. I assembled an arbor for my spouse a few days ago, and sat down on a concrete step in her garden.

It’s a good thing those little guys seem to not care for the flavor of human rump.

I enjoy sitting on the piazza to read and write, and to shoot – mostly birds – with my Nikon. Mr. and Mrs. House Wren have three youngsters in the gourd hanging from a low branch of the – whatever it is. We have three trees in our backyard. One is a Silver Maple eagerly growing the past 15 years or so after being transplanted by Gramma and her youngest offspring’s offspring. Another tree is a cherry, easily discernible by the crop of flowers, then berries and the cherry-specific tree bark.

The third tree – the one with the gourd– is bedecked with mostly deep red leaves, and a few green ones. They all were green for a short time after the white flowers expired. Then most of the leaves turned the color of a burgundy wine. I have no idea what kind of tree it is, but it has been friendly enough to the wrens.

One of the rewarding things about photography is I get pictures I can match to my field guides and thereby identify the critter I have found. A pretty black, white and red bird appeared one day flitting among the branches at the edge of our lawn. He was there long enough for me to get a nice shot of what turned out to be a Rufous-sided Towhee. I didn’t see the bird the rest of that year, which made the one picture seem more valuable.

This afternoon, a tiny caterpillar landed on my arm. I looked around diligently, trying to find where it had come from. It was, I think from looking at images on the Internet, a Fall Webworm. Like several other caterpillars, the Fall Webworm builds tents on deciduous trees and feasts on their leaves. They generally do not kill the trees, but they do make things ugly for a spell.

The little guy walked up my arm to my elbow, and jumped. I felt the snap, and when I looked around to see where it had gone, it was walking along the bricks. I should have followed to see where it went, but I looked away and when I looked back, it was gone.

Critters are pretty friendly, if by “friendly” one means to describe critters like the gopher that appears about 100 feet across the neighbor’s yard every afternoon. If I move suddenly, all this distance away, the furry rascal disappears, leaving nary a trace. His Chubbiness will be back, seeming to subscribe to the “trust, but verify” school of détente.

I have pictures to prove the encounters, except for the ants. Maybe later.

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