How Do White-Tailed Deer Change Ecosystems, Anyway?

Credit:  Robert Woeger ,  Unsplash Some facts about deer  An adult white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus , that might weigh between 100 and 150 pounds, must eat about 8-12 pounds of fresh forage every day. They eat a wide range of plants, from flowers to shrubs, to tree saplings, and in oak woodlands, acorns. All of these plants share the characteristic of a certain softness: deer lack upper front teeth, so their browsing involves a sort of mashing and tearing unlike the cutting and biting employed by many other herbivores, large and small, from rabbits to cows. It’s easy to identify deer-browsed areas, once you know the signs. Often there are browse lines at about four feet, below which everything looks as though it’s been trimmed—mature trees and bushes lack lower limbs and leaves, saplings remain stunted, if not eaten to the ground, and flowering plants have lost buds and flowers. In addition, there might be few flowering plants or shrubs, and a preponderance of grasses, sedges

Time Off

July and August I've been taking time away from the computer. I'll be back the last week of August when school starts. In the meantime, here's some backyard nature news:

Here as elsewhere around our climate-changing globe (though on a much less severe scale) the weather is news.

The morning of July 24, I woke up to a see a shallow pond in the backyard, a sight never before seen, after approximately eight inches of rain fell overnight. Flooding was widespread throughout the region, as anyone who lives here knows. The water drained, slowly but surely, and my trusty native plants are still thriving and blooming.

Consequently, we are having the worst mosquito outbreak in twenty years.

As of today the Chicago area has set a new record for longest stretch of days over 80 F--43 days, with more to come.

Other news:

Yellow jackets built condominiums in my compost pile; monarchs laid eggs on the milkweeds (a process I'd never actually watched before); yellow swallowtails, black swallowtails, red admirals and blue azures are also around; the honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees are very busy; the cicadas are extremely loud at night; and cicada-killer wasps have suddenly shown up. These last are a large, beneficial wasp that burrow in the ground and kill cicadas to feed their young, which should give an idea of just how big they are--two inches. More info here. That's three species of solitary burrowing wasps I've seen this year, since the katydid killers and the golden diggers are back on schedule.

Because of all the rain, I'm seeing new mushrooms, such as stink-horns, in the mulch.

No new bird species so far, but quite abundant.

It's truly incredible to me that the longer I garden with mostly native species, the more interesting the other life forms that appear.

Yesterday I picked my first-ever crop  of chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa x Elata) and plan to make jam. They are now in the freezer waiting for a cooler day, possibly next week.

Comments

Thomas Rainer said…
Welcome back! I need to get away from the computer myself . . .
Benjamin Vogt said…
Everything you talked about--except the chokeberies--I have seen and done and such. Amazing. Wet wet wet, lots of insects (likely th enative plants!), cicada killers, skeeters, a ong hot dry spell of 4 weeks bookened by days when we'd get 3, 4, 5 inches of rain..... and I ahte school, already two weeks in and the students are smarmy.