May activities on Loon Lake Road were dominated by the weather. The month began with several beautiful days, teasing us to go out in bare arms and no socks. The plants were encouraged to unfold their buds as temperatures reached up to 24 degrees C in the day and night temperatures at 6 C. Then like on a weather roller coaster, the air mass shifted and next day down we went to daytime high temperatures of 5 degrees. Brrr, and where were those socks? The whole outdoors seemed to shiver. The poor bedraggled eagles sat on the spruce tops hanging out their wings to dry. Eagles don’t have the same waterproofing of their feathers that ducks do and they look pretty sad when their feathers are all wet – especially those white heads.
The long weekend in May which is traditionally the first big party weekend at Loon Lake Road, was wet and then wetter, so most of the activity was indoors or under cover of some sort. As one summer resident put it – “This is nature’s way of telling us that if you want to enjoy Loon Lake you need to stay longer than a weekend.” In my opinion, several months are needed to adjust and become aware of all the various sensory impressions from the local nature. For city people it is hard to give up those things that fill in the sound atmosphere and demand your attention, like the iPad, internet and the constant music and sound coming from some sort of electronic device. When I point out that I prefer to have those devices on “off mode”, these folks look at me like I have said something in a foreign language. I think it is a wonderful experience to be able to distinguish between a Black chinned hummingbird and a Rufus hummingbird by the sound of their wings.
Bird behaviour has been noteworthy around my house. For some reason a pair of Flickers took to the idea of pecking at the siding of my house – and for a week we were wakened at 5 am by what seemed at first to sound like someone knocking at the door – then we discovered it was the Flickers. They have left a hole in the siding that now needs to be repaired before something decides to make a home in it. About the same time a small number of warblers hovered around the house under the overhang. It looked like they were trying to get into the roof but then on closer watching I could see they were collecting insects that had crawled into cracks to over winter. The hummingbirds are their usual teases and anyone walking near the house could find that a little feathered jet just flew very close by their head and could feel the air movement. I have read many comments on the fact that a flock of crows is called a murder of crows but never even wondered what a flock of hummingbirds was called. Maybe because flocks of crows are fairly common but I have never seen a flock of hummingbirds. Anyway, according to the Audubon Society there are several names for a flock of hummingbirds, including a glittering, a hovering and a shimmer. Personally I would have applied these words to a flock of fairies but as fairies are extremely rare in Canada these days I will use them for the hummingbirds.
A brigade of gravel trucks have been travelling up and down Loon Lake Road for some time now, starting early and running late and they will continue to run for a while. They are delivering material to build roadways at a new subdivision at the eastern end of the lake. This area is near where the fur brigades made their Loon Lake overnight camp on their way between Fort Kamloops and Fort Alexandria in the late 1840s and 1850s. In those days the horsepower carrying the loads were often actually horses. Now it seems the new hobby farms being created will provide nice pasture and room to roam for a horse or two in retirement. Construction on home renovations, outbuildings and landscaping is also in full swing, so building supplies are being trucked up in large quantities. All this hauling activity reminds me of the comment that Canada has two seasons, winter and construction season.
Bears and other wildlife are out in numbers, with one resident reporting sighting at least six bears. I have seen one from time to time along the creek bottom eating away at dandelions and other plant material. It is also time for Mule deer to be giving birth to their fawns. This means that the does will tend to be more aggressive if they have a fawn nearby, so do keep you dogs near you and carry a walking stick when out in areas where the deer are. [Ed. Note: Deer will leave their newborns alone while they forage for food. Don’t assume it has been abandoned. Leave the fawn where it is unless you can confirm the mother is dead.]
Loon Lake Road is at a higher elevation than Ashcroft or Cache Creek and so spring flowering times are later. Now we are enjoying the sight and scent of the lilac blossoms and the visits from the Swallowtail and Mourning Cloak butterflies. Other small butterflies are also busy amongst the flowers in the garden and they are most welcome, except of course for the cabbage white. Butterflies are not the only insect on the wing – it feels like every kind of blood sucking and biting insect finds its way to my neck and ankles. The wet weather has brought out a lot of mosquitoes and larger biting flies leave some pretty nasty bites. Soon it will pass and it is better than winter, isn’t it? And everyone is commenting that they hope this year will not bring another bonanza of yellow jackets. What is a group of yellow jackets called? A swarm or a colony is suggested by the dictionary, but I would suggest calling it a mob or a frenzy.
Ranchers have been busy this month branding and marking their young calves, and the cattle are being turned out on the spring grazing ranges. Watch for cattle on Loon Lake Road and along the forest service roads as well. Those conspicuous ear tags on the cattle are part of a programme that tracks the beef from birth to the store.