Sunday, July 1, 2012

Brutal heat and extreme drought affects the Ozarks

So this is extreme drought, eh! Make it stop.

                                  This is my backyard, where lush green is transitioning into brown.                                             All growth has stopped as the trees struggle to survive.
Extreme drought is what they call the transition from a beautiful green landscape to one that is dying before my eyes. The redbuds that line the backyard in the spring seem to be the first ones to lose their leaves in these hot, dry conditions North-central Arkansas has experienced since mid-spring. I believe where I live, there has been just a half inch of rain since April. Rain has occurred in areas all around us, but we are at a little higher elevation. It must be drier up here. We also must be closer to the sun because the temperatures have also been higher here than elsewhere around us.

It isn't just the redbuds, but other trees are losing leaves as well. Some of them are visible in the distance. What is normally a palette of lush, green colors is being replaced by the dead look of drab brown.

Bushes and plants aren't faring much better. Pots of marigolds, zinnias, petunias, and newly-planted trees continue to wither despite daily watering. The joy I once felt from just sitting on the front porch overlooking all the growing things in the yard has been replaced by the need to stay indoors where it's cool.

The string of triple-digit temperatures combined with weeks and weeks of no rainfall is not just hard on us humans.

It is also hard on the flora and fauna.

Tufted Titmouse
This poor little bird is trying to cool off by keeping its mouth open.

We keep several bird baths full at all times in both the front and back yards, refreshing throughout the day, just for our feathered friends.
This guy is sitting on a pot of marigolds which doesn't look too great either. It has been very difficult to try to keep  flowers alive in this brutal heat, even though they are out of the full sun. Even the pots in the shade of the front porch or along the north side of the house are drying out.

A White-tail deer forages for food
I followed this deer recently. She was foraging in our front yard, getting dangerously close to a young Bradford Pear tree and a pair of lilac bushes. That is not acceptable, even though she thinks she can help herself to anything that grows. We don't always agree.

Moments before, she was right next to the front porch munching on my flowers. By the time I got the camera, she had ambled this other garden area.

It seems that all animal behavior is altered by the excessive heat and arid conditions. Squirrels are more frenzied than normal in their desire to eat as much bird food as they can grab. In the past two days they have destroyed two bird feeders. One feeder which they had been unable to pilfer for the past eight years, has finally been squirrelized. They dragged it up to the roof of the house where they promptly ignored the squirrel baffle and feasted on its contents. Then, they proceeded to throw it to the ground. Needless to say, we went bird feeder shopping. Same story, another day.

Ruby-throated hummingbird
The hummingbirds have continued their zeal for the sugar water we make for them when needed.

There don't seem to be as many hummingbirds as in past years, but the ones that are here remain hungry. This little guy perches atop what is left of a red geranium. I thought about trimming it,  but this little hummer has taken to sitting on that tiny stem, so I decided to leave things as they are for now.

At the moment this picture was taken, his mouth was closed. Often times, they too open their mouths to cool off. It is like panting, and helps to expel the warm air from their bodies. Birds will also fluff their feathers, allowing heat to dissipate. Poor little things have no means of sweating to keep them cool.

I see by the radar, that rain is in the area, even though it is a hit-or-miss proposition. I'm always hopeful!
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