After a few days of heavy rain and sultry weather, there has been an explosion of life at the Forum Nature Area, a local wetland-prairie preserve. The greenery is lush, the ponds and lakes are flooded and a variety of wildflowers color the landscape; the latter include yellow coreopsis, wild rose, buttercups and wild irises. The lead plants, typical shrubs of the mesic prairie, are also in bloom, their purple flower stalks attracting hordes of bees.
The bird population continues to grow, with yellow-billed cuckoos making an appearance this week. Other summer residents include green-backed herons, great blue herons, killdeer, spotted sandpipers, eastern kingbirds, gray catbirds, indigo buntings, eastern phoebes, common yellowthroats, eastern bluebirds and the ubiquitous red-winged blackbirds. Clouds of insects offer plentiful prey for tree swallows, barn swallows and chimney swifts while, along the shores, bullfrogs and green frogs have graced the scene, their distinctive calls rising from the wetland.
The highlight of yesterday's visit was a large congregation of northern water snakes, plying the shallows at the west end of the lake. Constantly on the move and showing no signs of stalking prey, they were likely males in search of a receptive female; this is their breeding season and, in fact, the source of their excitement was probably the large adult lounging in a nearby sapling (females are significantly larger than males). If impregnated, she will give birth to anywhere from 12 to 60 live young in late August.