Geese, Herons, and Pollen: Spring Has Arrived!
“Sometimes i think there must be a sort of pollen of ideas floating in the air, which fertilizes similarly minds here and there which have not had direct contact.”
― William Faulkner
As I write this, I can see out of my window, across Manklin Creek, the ocean channel behind my house. Harriett, a Canadian goose, is sitting on her nest on the shore, while her mate, Howard, is guarding her by swimming up and down the channel, past her nest. We’re supposed to get violent thunderstorms today and the wind is already kicking up. Howard must be quite a strong swimmer. He has no trouble swimming against the fast current. Yesterday, Howard stood on a nearby neighbor’s dock for hours, looking for all the world like a sentry, guarding a fort. He takes his duties very seriously; that’s for sure.
I just got a text from my next-door neighbor, Debbie. She attached a photo of a dead tree within sight of us both. Two green heron were perched on the top branch, their feathers fluffed up to keep the wind from chilling them. I’m guessing they are also mates because at this time of year, we see lots of waterfowl pairs. Heron hide their nests well and if this pair has one, I think it is probably close by.
Yesterday, we had pollen so severe, that yellow clouds of the stuff made visibility across Manklin Creek quite fuzzy. In the five years we’ve lived in this house, I have never seen the pollen this bad. The water itself was yellow, with clumps of pollen covering the clam shells that line the island shore nearest us.
I am fortunate that I’m not one of those poor souls who suffer miserably from pollen every year. However, I do have a bit of a runny nose that suspiciously emerged right as Manklin Creek turned yellow. I’m now carrying around a box of Kleenex to my volunteer assignments. But I vividly remember how my late husband, Chris could barely breathe from springtime allergies and had to go to a specialist for shots every two weeks.
I wonder if dogs can get allergies. Chuck, my nine-year old Welshie, has a bad case of eye “crusties.” Hm. I guess I better check into that.
Is it my imagination that pollen is getting worse every year? Apparently not. According to weather forecasters, pollen in 2019 will be worse than usual, if not the worst year ever, for allergies. Just like 2018, the year before that, and the year before that. Allergy season has become so predictably terrible that late-night comedians have taken to venting about warnings of the “pollen tsunami” and “pollen vortex” or a “perfect storm for allergies. (https://www.vox.com/2019/4/8/18300342/pollen-season-2019-allergies-climate-change)
As one might expect, climate change is at least partially to blame for increased pollen. Researchers have found that grasses and ragweed plants increase their pollen production in response to localized surges in carbon dioxide, like from the exhaust of cars along a highway. https://www.vox.com/2019/4/8/18300342/pollen-season-2019-allergies-climate-change
In trees, the groundwork for a severe pollen season can be laid more than a year before the current season. According to Dr. Lewis Ziska, a research plant physiologist at the US Department of Agriculture:
“What happens is if the tree during the previous year has had a ‘good season,’ it tends to load up on carbs so that in the spring, it has a lot of carbs to put out for flower production,” Ziska said. “When that happens, you can get a large bloom, and the consequences of that are inherent in the amount of pollen that’s being produced.”
On the first warm day this spring, I made the mistake of opening windows and turning on the ceiling fan. By the end of the day, Jim was sneezing constantly and a thick, yellow layer of pollen covered my furniture. Learn from my mistake. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology offers the following tips for those who suffer allergies:
- Avoid using window fans that can draw pollen and mold into the house.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when outdoors to minimize the amount of pollen getting into your eyes.
- Wear a pollen mask (such as a NIOSH-rated 95 percent filter mask) when mowing the lawn, raking leaves or gardening, and take appropriate medication beforehand.
- Don’t hang clothing outdoors to dry as pollen could cling to towels and sheets.
- Try not to rub your eyes; doing so will irritate them and could make your symptoms worse. https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/health/Allergy-Season-Longer-and-Worse-508364631.html
By Phillip Larkin
The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.
Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.
Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.