Monday, August 20, 2018

The Humidity Has Been Good For Something

By Beth Sullivan
After the last month of rain and high humidity, we are all feeling a little damp and mildewed. And mold indeed is thriving, along with all of its fungal relatives. It is now prime mushroom season, a bit earlier this year than usual, thanks to the conditions. In a typical year, peak mushroom season, and all the festivals celebrating everything mycological, happen in September.
Amanita mushrooms are characterized by the rough bumps on top. They are deadly to eat and should not be touched. 

Turkey tails are unique, often beautiful and will persist into winter.

Fungi are in a Kingdom of their own

They are not plants at all, and surely they are not animals, but you would be surprised at some of their characteristics. They do not have true roots, or a vascular system, or flowers and seeds. They contain no chlorophyll so are unable to make their own food utilizing nutrients and sunlight. Have you noticed there are no real green mushrooms? They rely on obtaining their nutrients from the decay process that they are part of on the forest floor, utilizing all the dead plant material that is present there. They absorb their food through this process, rather than eating it or making it. Some are very specific, growing only near certain trees, by certain species of other plants, in very narrow ranges of pH (soil acidity). After several days, they themselves begin to get slimy and moldy and smell terrible. There is a very definite smell of decay and over-ripeness in the woods at this time of year. Here’s a fun fact: the outer tough skin of many mushrooms is made of Chitin, which is the same material as the shells of lobsters and crabs. Strange organisms.
Along with a wide variation in color, they also take many forms: the familiar umbrella, ruffles, shelves, turkey tails, and puffballs. If you have ever come upon a solid white ball on your lawn and think golf ball, experiment a little. A firm young puffball will be white all the way through and have a pleasing earthy smell. But wait a few weeks and find a puffball that has become browner with age. A touch with your toe or a flick of the finger will make it puff, explode with fine black dust, which is all the spores contained within. All mushrooms reproduce by releasing dusty spores.
This chicken mushroom is hard to miss and prized by many.

Early on a puffball is firm on the inside. Later it will dry and  fine black spores will be released when disturbed.

It's easy to see where a coral mushroom get its name.

More than meets the eye

Mushrooms are actually the visible, spore-producing bodies of a largely underground network of rhizome threads that comprise a fungus. The spread of the rhizomes extends great distances, but only one or two mushrooms may emerge. In other cases, many will pop up in the same area. Many are quite specific about where they grow and the conditions they need for survival, but one thing is generally universal: they need moisture to thrive. They can dry down to a dusty mass, but add water and some will reconstitute as good as new. There are fungi in every ecosystem - from the Antarctic, to deserts and jungles and cities, and even on our very own skin.
Take a hike in any shady cool woodland. Avalonia has many of these. Look on the ground, in the leaves, look on rotting tree trunks, branches and stumps. Notice the colors and textures and shapes. They may have the appearance of being nibbled. They are frequently eaten by small mammals, woodland turtles and insects and slugs. But don’t be tempted to pick and sample. Fungi are of great value for medicinal purposes, food processes (as in making cheese) and as prized edibles themselves. But be warned: there are also many mushrooms that are poisonous, or fatal, if eaten even in small quantities, so never mess with mushrooms unless you are with an expert. Bring a camera or sketch pad instead.
The underside of most mushrooms is covered with gills which hold and release spores.

The underside of bolete mushrooms have a spongy appearance and will often bruise blue when touched.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

Monday, August 13, 2018


by Beth Sullivan
It happens to all species. Kids: you give birth, take care of them, feed them, clean up after them, teach them whatever you can, wish them well and then they are out the door. Sometimes they hang around a while. Sometimes they need more instruction, or just can’t find a place of their own, so return to roost.
Lest I get too far with this and you think I am talking about my own offspring…no, it is my Purple Martins again. This is the sixth year we have hosted Purple Martins at Knox preserve. Each of the first two years we were the recipients of an Audubon CT grant that funded the two lovely set ups of 12 gourds each, made especially for the Martins. Each year our colony has grown and each year has been very unique in one way or another. Each year I learn more about them, and each year there are surprises.
This year the birds arrived on time but actually began nesting earlier and in those first nests, eggs were laid a full week earlier than previous years. However, there were still stragglers. The youngsters from the previous year, or from other colonies, that arrive later and take what is left for space, get started later. That made for a colony that had a very wide span of ages of young once they began hatching.
A wide range of ages existed in the colony. These were about 11 days old on the same day the next door nest was just hatching.

Our Tree Swallow nest has three young in their feathery nest.

These four seem fully feathered and should be able to fly, but stayed put when the door was opened. Photograph by Mariano Librojo. 

Different nest building this year

Some of the nests were very unusual this year too. Most Martin nests are quite light and loose. They are created on a base of pine needles that I supply and are supplemented with other grasses, sometimes small twigs, and always lined with green cherry leaves which indicates egg laying is imminent. This year I discovered several nests were created with a lot of mud. Mud itself is not uncommon, but the volume used in these nests was surprising. Nearly half of each gourd was filled with it and straw embedded into the mud, before the green leaves were added. This didn’t seem to cause any problem for the birds, but for me as the care taker it was a challenge. Usually, when the young are about 10 -15 days old, it is advised to check them for mites, since these can be so numerous as to kill young birds with their blood sucking habits. I would do complete nest changes, removing old infested material and replacing it with new clean needles and green cherry leaves. But it was absolutely impossible to remove the jam packed mud. These nests did have insects living in them and as the heat of the season built up, these mud nests seemed to hold the heat and moisture making what I would think was a very uncomfortable environment. These nests, by the end of the season, were filled with excrement and insect parts. I’d want to fledge or flee from that home too!
This year the DEEP did not have the staff or funding to band our colony. In previous years they came and processed all our birds, checking age, condition, and outfitting them with aluminum federal bands as well as green/orange color bands. This provides a visual identification that birds with the green/orange come from our colony. This year I noted only one returning adult with our color bands. I did, however, notice three adult males who made their home here, who had only silver colored federal bands and no colored ones to help identify their colony or origin.
If you look closely you can see silver bands on on the legs of several of the dark males on the left.

Sometimes first flights are not successful, and a young one lands in the grass. 
This was our late nest but watching them hatch was a small miracle.

Most have fledged

We did do nest checks through the season and photographed the stages that are so amazing to witness. On the last day I checked them, August 4, most of the nests were empty. The young had gone. But in two nests, a few full-sized young birds huddled together as I opened the door, they didn’t move. I could touch their sleek feathers, and I wished them well. I wondered whether they had not taken their first flight yet, or if, like some youngsters, just returned to the comfort of home after experiencing the real world.
If you hike at Knox over the next weeks, you can still see the Martins soaring over the fields, catching insects and in some cases still feeding young perched in the trees. Their chatter is unmistakable. All too soon, they will be gone for good. Off to South America for the winter season. Then I will have to figure out how to clean out those huge, smelly mud nests.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Summer 2018 on Sandy Point

By Beth Sullivan
Some things never change: the beauty and lure of a pristine island, calm water, clean sand and nature all at our back door.
Sandy Point Island is one of two islands owned by Avalonia Land Conservancy. South Dumpling is much farther off shore, not easily accessed and very rocky. The inner portions are densely vegetated and full of poison ivy. For that reason wildlife has been less disturbed and less oversight has been needed.
For generations Sandy Point Island has been much loved by local families and visitors alike. It is easily accessed by any kind of boat and the sandy shores are inviting to all: people and wildlife. Over the years we have reported on the efforts to preserve the wildlife on Sandy Point while still allowing people to enjoy the unique opportunity for passive recreation and nature observation. You can read more here. For the last two years the USFWS has been responsible for management on the island and each year, we get updates and reports on the success of the project. Visitors have been introduced to and educated about the management plans for the island. For the most part, those who understand are engaged and eager to assist with our conservation efforts. We thank you.
When visiting Sandy Point, take some time to read about the island and our conservation efforts.

A family group of oystercatchers doesn't seem to be intimidates by the flocks of gulls. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Migrating shorebirds like this ruddy turnstone rely on horseshoe crab eggs for food.

Home to many species

This year, preliminary reports are very encouraging about the number of American oystercatchers on the island. Approximately 16 pairs successfully nested and fledged young. We do not know the finally tally yet. These birds are so entertaining to watch and listen too, as they raise their young and noisily call to one another. This colony is considered one of the largest of these birds whose existence is threatened. Endangered piping plovers also arrived, some attempted nests, but between predators, people and storms, success may have been limited to one hatchling and it is uncertain if it survived to full fledging.
One species we can always count on, is the horseshoe crab. A group of us have been studying, counting and tagging these crabs since 2009. We have witnessed the steep decline in their numbers in just this short time period. Less than 10 years ago we could count 1000 crabs in one night, now we may get to 100, or so. Sacred Heart University’s Project Limulus, was unable to provide the large number of tags as in previous years, but in two separate visits, we were able to tag over 100 crabs and document returnees by their tag numbers from previous years. They too favor these beaches for mating and nesting. We have noticed some changes though. In earlier years, the populations were greatest along the north, calmer water side of the island. There they came farther up on shore and nested in areas that would be dry sand during low tide. It was also the area that sees more human disturbance and is often impacted by large mats of algae covering the shoreline. In recent years we have noticed a shift, and now they seem to be arriving on the southern shore down on the eastern tip. The surf is decidedly rougher, water cooler and cleaner, and they seem to burrow into the sand in deeper water for nesting. We wonder whether the nests ever dry out, whether the eggs develop successfully under water, or maybe if they are more protected from people and predators. I am not sure we will ever know really. But on a new moon night at the end of June, several of us were able to enjoy a motor boat ride out to the island and with tags, calipers, and headlamps we walked the beach, waded in deeper than we planned, and enjoyed participating in yet another year celebrating the return of the horseshoe crabs to Sandy Point.
Grey pearl-like horseshoe crab eggs are laid in shallow sand. 

Often the crabs emerge from the water to nest on the high tide line, but then they are more vulnerable to predators. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Team work allowed us to tag 50 crabs that night, document previously captured crabs, and pick up litter. Photograph by Rick Newton.

The south eastern shore of the island has a rougher surf, but he horseshoe crabs seem to prefer nesting in the deeper waters found there. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Still time to enjoy Sandy Point

There is still a month of high summer, and almost two months until the autumn equinox. There is still time to enjoy Sandy Point. The shorebird migration has begun. If you are very, very observant, you may actually be able to find the larval, miniature horseshoe crab young on the mudflats in shallow water. They are a necessary food source for the birds.
Summer life on Sandy Point continues. Some things change, somethings never do. If you go out to the island, please respect the guidelines and make it your choice to help us protect the creatures that also need the island for their own R&R.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Night noises

By Beth Sullivan
After an unbearably long period of heat and humidity, it has been wonderful to finally shut off the AC and open the windows at night. What a change from just a week or so ago. What a racket!
The volume of sound, the chorus, is a bit like stepping into the middle of a swamp of Spring Peepers. But the Peepers have long ago quieted and left the breeding ponds. The Bullfrog may bellow in the swamp, and Gray Tree frogs will sing before a rain. Occasionally the light and temperature in September will confuse a Peeper into singing a bit, but the chorus is gone.
Spring Peepers have ceased their chorus.

Bull Frogs bellow out in the swamps throughout a hot summer night. Photograph by Al Bach.

Noisy insects

Now is the season of insects. Through the summer the insect population has swelled. They have eaten and grown and multiplied. The majority of the millions of species of insects on Earth are silent. But for those that are not, this is their time, and they are a making a loud noise in the summer night. Like birds, it is mostly the males that do the calling; they do so to declare territory and to find mates. But unlike birds, their song is not created vocally but with other body parts.
You may hear a Dragonfly whir by but they make no real noise.

Almost all the noise we hear from insects at this time of the season, is made by those of the genus Orthoptera-the Ortho meaning legs-and are familiarly known as Crickets and Grasshoppers, with impressive back legs. As adults now, these insects have developed wings. Not all are good fliers, but they make great music. By vibrating and rubbing ridged segments of their wings against one another, they create a variety of high pitched sounds. They hear one another by means of “ear drums” on their front legs. Unless you have had one of these insects stuck in the house, it is hard to single out one song. It is the combined efforts of millions of these insects that makes the ringing tones we hear now.
The easiest song to identify is made by the Katydid, which is actually a long horned grasshopper. The good sized insect has a flattened body of bright green, making it appear like a leaf on edge. Long hind legs allow it to leap, and they do fly when in danger. But they are nearly impossible to see, as their camouflage is perfect. Their song is the distinctive, low toned “Katy-did” “Katy did-n’t”. Repeated over and over.
When on a leaf, the Katydid is impossible to see. Photograph by Bruce Fellman

We all know of the common Field Cricket, black with brown wings folded over its back. They are the easiest to find in woods and gardens and paths in fields. Kids love to find and contain the black field crickets, but let one loose in a house, and you will become familiar with the song very quickly.
Field Crickets are found in woods and fields.  Photograph by Al Bach.

Small, delicate, and very loud

The ones that seem to make the highest, most consistent buzzing/ringing sound on summer nights are the Tree Crickets. These are small and delicate. With lacey wings, they are high in trees, up in bushes and in grasses. Their fast-paced and high pitched chirping is created by wing-on-wing motions. These create chirping noises that actually increase in frequency the higher the temperature. Some people believe you can actually deduce the actual temperature by counting the cricket chirps and applying a mathematical formula. If you can possibly count the chirps.
A Tree Cricket is small, rarely seen, and most frequently the noisiest. 

Of course with the windows open, we are also treated to the hooting of owls, yip and howl of coyotes, the occasional Gray Tree Frog and once in a while, the scream of a Fisher. That’s enough to break the peaceful hypnosis that comes when listening to the chorus of night insects.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan unless otherwise indicated.

This posting originally appeared August 22, 2016.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Woodland musings: If a tree falls?

By Beth Sullivan
Each night I try to get out for a short walk in the woods. The Woodlot Sanctuary is almost in my backyard, so it is becoming home turf and I am enjoying the feeling of getting to know it. While it is a bit too dense ( and hot and buggy) to go too far off trail and into the wetter areas now, the trail loops offer something new to see each time I walk.
On this recent evening I was startled to see an obstruction on the trail where there had not been one the evening before. I was so sad to see that my favorite huge, old snag of a tree had fallen. This tree had been dead for a long time: its crown snapped off in one of the hurricanes in the 1980’s (Gloria or Bob). Over the years I have seen numerous woodpeckers working the tree, and recently, Pileated. Owls had nested in the broken top. Squirrels and raccoons made use of the hollow trunk. But what took it down, finally, was carpenter ants. These are the big, robust, black ants we dread to see in our homes and woodwork.
A surprise to see the old tree down on teh trail.

Bark beetles leave their trails on the old smooth wood.

Ant social structure

These colonial insects will inhabit a tree for decades, usually starting in live ones. Burrowing, tunneling, chewing safely deep inside the tree. Protected from weather extremes, they really don’t need to hibernate but may choose to retreat lower into the trunk or roots. In most colonies, the division of labor has created a system that assures there has been plenty of food stored within the many chambers. Other chambers are holding the queen and her eggs; others are nursery chambers where workers rear the young. It is an amazingly intricate and effective social system. However, ultimately, their own work is their undoing, and the tree falls. It has been discovered that carpenter ant colonies prefer their homes to be vertical. Once the tree is horizontal, they will abandon it and move elsewhere. On this evening, I examined the base and the trunk, and there wasn’t an ant to be seen.
This big old tree is not done with its usefulness yet. Mushrooms and other fungi will continue the decomposition process. Other insects and invertebrates will move in to further utilize the wood and the chambers. These will attract other woodpeckers which do not care if the tree is horizontal. Under the moist rotten wood, salamanders and worms will find homes. If the log could be lifted in a few seasons, there will surely be tunnels made by small mammals.
Indian Pipes rely on decayed, organic material, and have already begun to sprout in the rotten wood.

Small mammals will tunnel under and into the trunk to find protection and storage for their stash of food. Photograph by Rick Newton.

Silent encounter

As I walked around the log, paying attention to the ground, I stopped quickly and came face to face, literally, with a lovely Barred Owl. I am sure this bird had been watching me already for several minutes as I circled the log and took photos. It was no more than ten feet from me and about 6 feet off the ground. We really looked at each other for what seemed to be a minute, but was less I am sure. As I tried to get my camera up slowly, it turned away, not alarmed, gave a look over its shoulder and silently flew off, not far and still in sight.
What a special encounter. I wondered if this big old tree had played a part in its life.
This log and its remains will be present in this spot for many more years, and I will keep checking it. We won’t move it off the trail. It is easy enough to walk around. And it will provide a spot to sit, and wonder: “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around, does it make any sound? “
The tree was hollowed by carpenter ants.
The honeycombed chambers the ants created are really quite pretty.

A moments glimps and blurred photo but a great memory of a curious Barred Owl.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Small steps in a hot summer

by Beth Sullivan
As the summer season ramps up, some things slow down.
It’s getting too hot to have pre-planned big work parties on the preserves, yet it is a time when maintenance is needed. We are truly grateful for our volunteers with bigger equipment that can get some of the bigger trails mowed and maintained. But smaller efforts really add up too.
Clip and snip as you walk and it will be easier for the person who follows.

Evening walk with a purpose

It is a great time of year for morning or evening walks. The air is fresher, still cool enough to get some exercise, and the lighting is beautiful. A quiet walk can also be productive if you slip a pair of clippers into your pocket or don a pair of light gloves.
Invasive plants and vines are growing rapidly right now. Seemingly before our eyes, they reach out to obstruct the trails or grab at you with thorns. A quick, well aimed snip as you walk by can make all the difference for the person who comes after you.
Certain troublesome weeds like Garlic Mustard and Wild Radish are beginning their flowering and seed setting, and they have spread widely during the last months. The good thing is that these plants pull up easily. When I find either of these, or others I know, growing in invasive clusters, I love yanking them out and tossing them aside before they have a chance to set seed for next year. Every little bit helps.
As pretty as it looks, the little yellow flowers of Wild Radish will create abundant seeds and spread. It's okay to pull them up.

These invasive weeds are helped out by the defoliation occurring in our woodlands. While the large Oaks and other forest trees are suffering from leaf loss due to caterpillar infestations, there is more sunlight reaching the forest floor. Invasives are often the first and quickest to take advantage of the new sunny conditions and burst into flower and seed production. If we lose trees due to another year of stress, the openings in the forest will be taken over by these invasive plants whose seedlings got a quick start. Pull them now while you can.
Defoliation allows sunlight to reach the understory. 
That sunlight allows invasive weed seeds to grow in masses. Pull them up.

Another way you can help in the woods is to note when vines are beginning to overtake a tree. I recently witnessed a huge crash as the trunk of a tall straight old oak was snapped and crown dragged to the ground by the weight of vines. Invasives like Bittersweet will overtop a tree and the sheer volume of foliage adds a huge burden. This episode happened after a rain and the added water weight was too much to bear. As you walk in your own woods, or along a trail and you see Bittersweet making its ascent, pull out those handy clippers and a simple snip of the leading vine will kill off the remaining plant and possibly save the tree it has overtaken.
Many types of vines will over-top and eventually overwhelm trees. Snip them early.
The huge weight of invasive bittersweet took down a mighty old tree.

Gypsy Moths on the wing

I have also been appalled to see large dark clusters of the Gypsy Moth cocoons on tree trunks and undersides of branches throughout the woodlands. Many Gypsy moth caterpillars died before pupating and that was encouraging, but the overwhelming numbers of the ones that survived does not bode well for next year. I have taken my garden hose with a hard stream and aimed at washing off the cocoon masses I cannot reach with a stick. A power washer can reach even farther. With care, you can dislodge and destroy a large number of these cocoon masses, but you have to do it soon. The moths we have been seeing fluttering around at all hours of the day are the rust colored male Gypsy moths, already emerging first. The heavier white females will come out later and stay close to their cocoon masses on the tree trunks and lay their eggs. Be watchful and take action. Get rid of cocoons you may find on houses, sheds, woodpiles and trees where you can reach them. Be ready to sweep at and kill the female moths that cannot fly before they lay eggs. And keep a watchful eye out, and a stick in hand, to scrape away egg masses when you see them.
Look for dark masses of cocoons and remove them.

Stewardship can be simple small steps on an easy walk, on a pretty trail. But every little bit can help. And it feels good too.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

This posting originally appeared on July 11, 2016.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Celebrating Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

By Beth Sullivan
As we have just celebrated 242nd anniversary of the Independence of our Country, we need to acknowledge America the Beautiful.
We must think of the work that land conservation organizations accomplish, to protect and preserve our natural resources for all the future generations.
Whether it is great and wild as the Nature Conservancy lands, more suburban and urban space protected by Trust for Public Land, or habitats in our own back yard as protected by Avalonia Land Conservancy, the lands protected now are forever. Green space land is being lost and developed at a tremendous pace; there will be no more when it is gone.
It is inherent in our history that we may forever enjoy the rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Where better to enjoy life, be free to wander and pursue happiness, than in natural open space.

Appreciate Life,

Enjoy Liberty,

 And the pursuit of Happiness. Photograph by H. Milardo.

We can do our part to recognize America the beautiful in our corner of Connecticut by supporting the efforts of our land trusts and by getting out onto the preserves and giving thanks for the open space that will remain beautiful and open for future generations of people and wildlife too.
Hope you had a Happy 4th of July.
Celebrate the RED, WHITE and BLUE!
Watch for the Red,


And Blue at an Avalonia preserve.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan, unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, July 2, 2018

A note from Beth

Dear friends and readers of Avalonia eTrails:
Some of you might have noticed I have been a bit MIA over the last couple of months - no personal blogs but a lot of great help from the Conn College students. The Blog-Master Al has also been able to comb through past blogs to find things that are seasonally timely and pertinent. They ran years ago, before we had so many new readers.
Life has conspired to deliver some challenges. One wonderful and inspiring, one scary, and both at the same time. We have been blessed with a new granddaughter: Ava Josephine. And I am providing some special care and a lot of time that only a Mom/Grammie can provide. It is a special opportunity to form a bond that will, hopefully, last a lifetime.The other is illness in our immediate family. It is a blow, it is scary, and it is challenging to think about the best way to move forward. Certainly one day at a time. It has made me reorder my thoughts and priorities, set aside things I used to think were important, and use my energy and time for different goals. However, I realize that underlying so much of everything that is happening, I still hold strongly to belief that being in nature has healing powers. I have had time to think.
When faced with an illness, we absolutely have to cherish every moment we have. We have to notice every little thing. Appreciate the small beauties and details we find on even a very short walk in the woods or around the yard. There is no need to go far to find small bits of peace in a hectic time. I have a rock in the woods where I sit for a minute when I can. I am grateful when I have time to weed my garden a little bit. I will not take for granted my health and energy. I have learned to enjoy the Catbird that sings incessantly at day break when I may really like to sleep but am snuggling a newborn. We talk about birds a lot during those hours together.
Bringing a new human into this world is a major responsibility. But it is an amazing opportunity to be able to teach and shape a new little life. With a child, I see things differently. Like that Catbird. Or just the beautiful simple contrast of green leaves against a blue sky. I feel the breeze on my face and watch her try and taste it as it reaches hers.
I am ever more committed to our mission of preserving land and habitats, so that this next generation will always have a place to walk and learn and explore and love. There is so much at risk in this world today. Everyone must choose their passion, and mine is to do as much as possible to make sure that there are places to explore, and create ways to help people explore them and learn from them and love them.
I surely hope that the next months will become calmer and settled. That newborns and new moms grow into security and joy together. Each day there is such amazing growth and beauty. And that illness will be cured and strength regained, so we can get out and enjoy stretching our legs a bit farther to heal better.
In the meantime, please take the time to get outdoors, to find a trail, find a special spot for meditation and release. Enjoy that Catbird. Take a child to a new place and take the time to appreciate the small things in life, because those will be the great things that they will remember. I sincerely believe that.
Enjoy some eTrail reruns, take some photos and share with other Avalonia friends on Instagram or Hike and Seek. I will be looking out for them.

Children remind us of the truth and need for time in nature

Enjoy the early morning chatter of a happy Catbird.

One only needs to look up from a stationary spot to find vast variety.

Find beauty in the smallest of shapes in places close to home.

I saw pink clouds welcoming a new little girl into our life

I look forward to showing Ava the fun of dandelions.