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Author Topic: The Critter Year  (Read 367 times)

Altair

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The Critter Year
« on: July 28, 2017, 09:12:16 am »
As a nature-oriented pagan, I'm always looking for ways to connect with the wild; here's one that will vary greatly depending on your geographic location, but might be a fun thought experiment: If you had to define the time of year by the bug or beastie that most epitomizes it, what would your critter calendar look like?

For example, here in NYC, I just this second heard my first cicada of the season; this to me signals the beginning of high summer, the latter half of that season. Fireflies epitomize early summer (but that wouldn't apply in the west of North America, where fireflies don't exist; so yes, geography matters in this). And perhaps, because their migration is so remarkable, I might choose the monarch butterfly as the standard bearer for early fall.

Any other critter year ideas? What might your critter calendar look like?
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
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MeadowRae

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2017, 09:32:28 am »
As a nature-oriented pagan, I'm always looking for ways to connect with the wild; here's one that will vary greatly depending on your geographic location, but might be a fun thought experiment: If you had to define the time of year by the bug or beastie that most epitomizes it, what would your critter calendar look like?

For example, here in NYC, I just this second heard my first cicada of the season; this to me signals the beginning of high summer, the latter half of that season. Fireflies epitomize early summer (but that wouldn't apply in the west of North America, where fireflies don't exist; so yes, geography matters in this). And perhaps, because their migration is so remarkable, I might choose the monarch butterfly as the standard bearer for early fall.

Any other critter year ideas? What might your critter calendar look like?

I would definitely use Deer for Midwinter and robins for Spring. Locally, seeing a robin was considered the beginning of spring for years (according to my mom.) I would probably use a bear for late fall/early winter due to hibernation. I will have to think more about the other seasons.

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2017, 09:41:40 am »
As a nature-oriented pagan, I'm always looking for ways to connect with the wild; here's one that will vary greatly depending on your geographic location, but might be a fun thought experiment: If you had to define the time of year by the bug or beastie that most epitomizes it, what would your critter calendar look like?

I pretty reliably see my first rabbit of the year right around spring equinox.

(Also, for the last two years, right around May 1 we've had a Canada goose nesting in the interior courtyard near my office: there is a Large Production to get her and the hatchlings out of the building once they can walk. Two years in a row so far, so we'll see if she's back next year.)
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MamaThistle

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2017, 09:58:59 am »
Any other critter year ideas? What might your critter calendar look like?

I love this. I live in the northwest in a very mountainous area. I would pick elk for Fall. We have a lot of bears here, but I can't decide if bears should be midwinter or summer when they are most active..


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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2017, 11:44:02 am »
We have a lot of bears here, but I can't decide if bears should be midwinter or summer when they are most active..

Right now I'd have to go with summer. Got back this morning to find a large black bear helping himself to our bird seed. He was bloody gorgeous! I'm hoping he'll be back around though I think I'm going to start talking loudly to myself whenever I leave the house from now on - don't want to know what he'd do if I caught him by surprise...

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2017, 11:59:34 am »
Right now I'd have to go with summer. Got back this morning to find a large black bear helping himself to our bird seed. He was bloody gorgeous! I'm hoping he'll be back around though I think I'm going to start talking loudly to myself whenever I leave the house from now on - don't want to know what he'd do if I caught him by surprise...

Aww. Black bears are not usually aggressive, but I think that's a smart idea. ;)

Now, grizzlies on the other hand. I am fascinated by bears though and I think you're right about summer.


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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2017, 12:09:33 pm »
As a nature-oriented pagan, I'm always looking for ways to connect with the wild; here's one that will vary greatly depending on your geographic location, but might be a fun thought experiment: If you had to define the time of year by the bug or beastie that most epitomizes it, what would your critter calendar look like?

For example, here in NYC, I just this second heard my first cicada of the season; this to me signals the beginning of high summer, the latter half of that season. Fireflies epitomize early summer (but that wouldn't apply in the west of North America, where fireflies don't exist; so yes, geography matters in this). And perhaps, because their migration is so remarkable, I might choose the monarch butterfly as the standard bearer for early fall.

Any other critter year ideas? What might your critter calendar look like?

As a wildlife rehabilitator in NYC, I have to say I go by what species the wildlife hospital gets as an indicator for seasons. Here's the run down:

Spring /Spring Migration: American Woodcocks are coming into town (and they're a PITA to take care of). They're the earliest indicator for this. Once they come in, we know that spring is on its way, and we'll be expecting a lot of window strikes.
Mid-spring/Late Spring: Baby squirrels and/or baby birds are coming in. We also see baby ducks and geese starting to flood us.
Early Summer: still baby birds (ugh)
Late summer (about now): Herring gulls are coming into the center
Early Autumn: Canada Geese are coming in.
Late Autumn: Woodcocks (again) - they're the last to leave in the Fall, and first to arrive in Spring.
Winter: juvenile Red Tail Hawks, and purely aquatic birds (loons).
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Kylara

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2017, 01:13:00 pm »


Any other critter year ideas? What might your critter calendar look like?

My city/redneck is going to show....

When I think about animals and seasons, the first thing that pops into my mind is summer and flies/mosquitoes (of course they really find me tasty, so I get visits from them a LOT).  I get rabbits for both spring (when they come out in family groups) and winter (I see their tracks a ton around our house). 
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Owl

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2017, 03:19:38 pm »


Here we see deer year round, but they bed down in the field by the barn in late summer.

The blue heron is checking out the pond by the pump house mid spring to mid fall (when there are frogs).

My husband feeds the scrub jays inthe winter, so they spend a lot of time in the plum trees in front of the house.

The hummingbirds go through seasonally.

I could keep going, but living very rural means we see a lot of animals



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Altair

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2017, 03:58:41 pm »
I would definitely use Deer for Midwinter and robins for Spring. Locally, seeing a robin was considered the beginning of spring for years (according to my mom.) I would probably use a bear for late fall/early winter due to hibernation. I will have to think more about the other seasons.

See, for me in these parts, robins are unreliable (even though they carry the weight of the "first sign of spring" lore). Yes, most migrate, but in our area some winter over, so you can see them any time of year.

But when I was growing up on Long Island, the "Oh-ka-REEEEEEEEE!" of the red-winged blackbird would have me dashing to the window with hope that, finally, winter was breaking. They migrate much more reliably and usually return around the end of February/beginning of March, so they're definitely my harbinger of early spring.

(TheGreenWizard's suggestion of woodcocks is also a good one for early spring, but they don't announce themselves as dramatically...in fact, their camouflage is so near-perfect, they're easily overlooked.)

For late spring? Here in the East of North America, for a birder, it's got to be the warblers ("New World" or "wood" warblers, not to be confused with a very different family of birds in Eurasia). I was holding off trying to pick one species (of about 30 that pass through NYC during the spring migration) in particular, but it's not possible; the latter half of spring is a pageant of these small, active, colorful birds (like butterflies with personality and song), who come in a fairly well-defined procession every year (Pine Warbler first, Mourning Warbler last).

I'll go with another bird for late fall in NYC: the White-throated Sparrow. They are *everywhere* that there's a bit of woods (incl. city parks), BUT only in the winter; for them, NYC is Florida. And their vocalizations are so distinctive, it jumps out to a birder when they're around. Their arrival sometime in late fall is my signpost of that seasonal turn.

So I've got three-quarters of my critter calendar:
Early spring--Red-wings
Late spring--Warblers
Early summer--Fireflies
Late summer--Cicadas
Early fall--Monarchs
Late fall--White-throats

BTW, does anyone else routinely experience the four seasons in two parts (early and late)? Or do some of you divide your year differently?

As for winter...feh. I have no good ideas. Probably because it's the one season I detest.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2017, 04:01:43 pm by Altair »
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Sefiru

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2017, 07:39:44 pm »

But when I was growing up on Long Island, the "Oh-ka-REEEEEEEEE!" of the red-winged blackbird would have me dashing to the window with hope that, finally, winter was breaking. They migrate much more reliably and usually return around the end of February/beginning of March, so they're definitely my harbinger of early spring.

Around here it's more like "LWWREEEEEEEEEE" - do birds have dialects? But yeah, the red-winged blackbirds are the first spring arrivals around here. Frogs come a little later, when the nights stay above freezing.

Summer is loons and groundhogs, snakes sunning themselves on paths, as well as a menagerie of insects (mosquitos, deer flies, black flies, ticks (I'm in the area for Lyme Disease and West Nile); wasps and midges; swallowtail butterflies come early and wooly-bear caterpillars show up late.

Fall is migrating geese and flocking starlings, and mice coming indoors as the weather cools.

Winter is chickadees. There are a few feeding spots near here where they will eat out of your hand.


Quote
BTW, does anyone else routinely experience the four seasons in two parts (early and late)? Or do some of you divide your year differently?

I divide my year into three zones depending on what kind of coat/hat/shoes I need to wear (spring and fall belonging to the same zone).

Altair

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2017, 08:22:37 pm »

Around here it's more like "LWWREEEEEEEEEE" - do birds have dialects?

Definitely. (Though I wouldn't trust either of our Roman alphabet approximations as the basis for dialect comparison!)
The first song sets the wheel in motion / The second is a song of love / The third song tells of Her devotion / The fourth cries joy from the sky above
The fifth song binds our fate to silence / and bids us live each moment well / The sixth unleashes rage and violence / The seventh song has truth to tell
The last song echoes through the ages / to ask its question all night long / And close the circle on these pages / These, the metamythos songs

Ashmire

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2017, 09:28:49 pm »
Definitely. (Though I wouldn't trust either of our Roman alphabet approximations as the basis for dialect comparison!)

I went looking for samples of red-winged blackbird calls after reading this.   I had never realized they sound so different elsewhere.   Here, the transliteration is usually CONK-a-LEEEEEee!

  That "conk" is so pronounced I almost freeze in amazement every time, that a living organic being could produce that sound---it's like nothing else in the world, but the closest I could imagine is dropping a microphone into a steel bowl, with a touch of electronic feedback.   I was a little disappointed I couldn't find one like that online.

My favorite, though, is the Western Meadowlark.  I am convinced the only reason the Nightingale holds such a high reputation for the most beautiful song is that the great poets of the Old World never got close to one of our meadowlarks.   Of course, that it's a sound I associate deeply with the most peaceful,  natural places in my home region may bias me a bit.

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Re: The Critter Year
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2017, 10:07:06 pm »

BTW, does anyone else routinely experience the four seasons in two parts (early and late)? Or do some of you divide your year differently?

As for winter...feh. I have no good ideas. Probably because it's the one season I detest.

Well, most of our seasons are short, except winter,(don't move here ;)) but I could see an early spring and late spring. Summer and fall are usually short. I like winter until around February, that's usually when I'm over it. So I guess winter could be about 3 parts here.


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