The warm front that brought yesterday’s rain has ushered in hot, humid air. The air feels thick. Before mid-day, the temperature is in the 80s. Rain from the thunderstorms last night soaked the forest floor, and the humidity has kept evaporation from helping to dry out the litter of leaves on the ground.
A few cicadas buzz from the treetops across the field. A mass of gnat-like insects swarm in front of my face. I wave my hand across my nose and catch two. They appear to be fruit flies. I think of fruit fly habitat as the six inches above the compost bucket under my sink, but why wouldn’t they thrive on the fruit and berries on the field border? Bushes along the trail are laden with orange, red, and dark cherry-red berries in various states of ripeness. Robins, waxwings and grouse are the fruit flies’ primary competition for these fruits. The flies have the advantage of greater numbers.
The hot wind itself seems unable to muster the will to maintain a breeze. Once in a while it pushes hard enough to ruffle the topmost leaves of the trees, but the forest floor remains calm and hot. With little wind and high humidity, last night’s rainwater still clings to every leaf in the understory. Only the topmost leaves have had the sun and wind to dry out.
This is the time for mosquitoes to breed and lay eggs – while the little pools of water are full and unlikely to evaporate dry very quickly. They are more numerous and persistent than in days past.
The quietness of the forest belies its activity. Plant metabolism roughly doubles for every 5ºC (9ºF) increase in temperature. Compared to a 75ºF day, the trees are making twice as much sugar this morning at 84º – and four times more than a cool, 66º day. I temporarily forgive the heat as I think of tapping maple trees for syrup next March.
From the shade of the trees on the south edge of the field, I feel heat radiating from the open field. The slightly hazy sun is adding plenty of heat to the field, and it radiates perceptibly into the shade nearby.
An aspen log, cut from the trail and pushed aside on the forest floor a few years ago, is covered in flowing, white mushrooms. They look as if the oppressive heat and humidity squeezed them up out of insect holes in the trunk and they oozed in lazy waves over the log. I did not see these mushrooms yesterday. One can’t miss them today.
Deer flies are absent today. Maybe they, too, feel the heat and humidity own the day, and vigorous exercise is better saved for another, cooler, or at least less humid day.