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Poor Will's Almanack: May 31 - June 6, 2016

Ezio Melotti
Flickr Creative Commons

A few afternoons ago I was sitting in the back yard enjoying the mild weather and the sun. By chance, I happened to look up into the tall locust tree at the edge of my property.

There, high on a branch, I saw a small yellow butterfly which appeared to be attacking a robin. The butterfly left its place on the branch, flew quickly at the bird, then away from it and returned to the tree. In a few seconds, it repeated the pattern. After three such assaults, the robin left, and only the insect remained, perched victorious and unmoving on the locust. The whole incident was over in less than a minute.

Now, other than my personal observation, there is no evidence that butterflies can drive off robins.. Like stories of frogs aggressively guarding their territories against huge pike and carp, my bird-butterfly tale lies on the fringes of natural history.

Still, the incident seems more than just an illusion created by my ignorance or by my distance from the ostensibly feuding creatures. In the quiet of early summer I saw the meek and the fragile inherit the earth, the weak overcome the strong, and I thought that maybe if I really watched more closely, took my time, sat in the afternoon sun through all of summer, I would witness the other beatitudes fulfilled, see the secret balance of the world revealed.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third week of early summer. In the meantime, watch for beatitudes to be revealed.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.