Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Drowsy Days Of July Just Around The Corner

The drowsy days of July are on their way. The hot, brassy sun, the droning of bees and the still, flower-perfumed air seem to voice the peacefulness of the mid-summer day.

It is in the month of July that the new generation of birds, frogs, mammals, yard and garden weeds and other forms of animal and plant life begin to mature and come into their own.

After the hustle and bustle of May and June, July seems to bring a sense of maturity to the young of the feathered tribe and you see them coming to feeders alone. Young cardinals, more than any other young I have observed, seem to be skilled in "working the parents for food" as long as the parents will allow it. Sometimes you will see a good-sized young-of-the-year cowbird being cared for by a vireo or cardinal.

July is the first full month the sun begins its southward journey. Our calendars say summer is just beginning and we like to believe these long, sweet days will last forever. But we know days are now growing shorter and shorter, and will continue to do so until the winter solstice in December.

July, like any other month of the year, has dumped into her thirty-one days left overs of the months before and signs of what is to be in the months ahead. Along roadsides and in abandoned fields, early goldenrods, black-eyed Susans, sunflowers and butter-and-egg toadflax say "autumn" loud and clear.

Somehow we get the idea that trees don't begin to shed their leaves until the calendar says "fall". But look. Some of the trees are beginning to drop colorful leaves now, leaves that are hidden deep within the green tree. Notice the leaves on your lawn. First a yellow one here and there, then an occasional red or wine one. These falling leaves will increase steadily until late October and early November when the last ones are downed by winter winds and rain. Even if we have a wet summer, leaves will drop.

Trumpet vine and jewel weed are the most bounteous in July, just in time for hummers north of us to join our locals, giving our yards more flash over flower beds and lawns as they sip nectar from the feeders.

Killdeer are leading about their spindle-legged fledglings, hatched from a quartet of earth-colored eggs deposited on a slight depression in a graveled plot of a cemetery.

Purple martins, red-winged blackbirds and grackles are early flockers. Already you may see them in small bands in trees or strung along a utility line like a row of beads. The orchard oriole is usually on its way back to the tropics by the end of July, staying in the temperate zone less than four months, just long enough to rear a brood of five brownish-yellowish youngsters. So soon do they vanish from our turf that usually the young-of-the-year are still in juvenile plumage when they arrive in Central America.

During July sunsets begin to change. The sun no longer sets behind the same tree or house as it did before the twenty-first of June. It is slowly moving southward (notice the shadows), and this will bring to the Central Savannah River Area the migration of the million of birds making their way to South and Central America for the winter.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds will be the first to hit our area. Be on the lookout! Some will be fattening up at your feeders in the next few weeks for the six hundred mile trip over the Gulf.

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