Sunday, July 13, 2008

July Is A Time For Birds To Make Changes

July, the turning point of the year, comes tripping in with hints of fall.

Yellow leaves are already sprinkling green lawns. Spring flowers are hanging their straggly, browning heads, making room for vibrant fall colors of asters, dahlias, chrysanthemums, roadside flowers of Joe-Pyeweed, mullein and those fields of goldenrod that will delight us from now until frost.

July brings starlings, grackles and red-winged blackbirds in small flocks back to our yards. It seems only yesterday they left to build their nests and rear their families in the swamps and marshes of the Savannah River. Orchard orioles are planning and packing for their South American tour. By the end of the month, only now and then can we expect to see one of these orange and black songsters.

Young Carolina wrens are learning the "wren screech" and the "sheree-e, she-ree-e" song. Fledgling wrens are brought to the pool to drink and play by their dad who is baby-sitting while mom is busy constructing a new nest.

A nest full of spotted-breasted robins is hidden in a low-branched tree. Fledglings from a second nesting of towhees, rich brown above, streaked with darker brown all over, usually stay hidden in the foliage, but once or twice a day we see them in the pool splashing around. Dad is usually close by.

Honey bees, pollen-laden, are out in profusion. The humming of the honey-makers suckling nectar from purple wave petunias makes sultry July days even more slow motioned and oppressive.

Bird song begins to dwindle in this hot month. No longer does the dawn chorus greet us. Now the days and nights are filled with insect music.

That winsome jewel, the ruby-throated hummingbird visits our tubes more frequently now that the young are on the wing and the far north nesters are already moving southward. Expect a greater number of the dainty sprites to use your feeders from now until about mid-September when they begin to leave our area for the coast and Central America.

Millions of dashing little sandpipers and plovers that passed through our section of the country on moonlit nights just weeks ago on their way to nesting grounds in the Arctic will be making their way back to the Argentina plains during these hot days. Though we will miss the migration of the massive flocks that usually follow the coastline, hundreds will drop out along the way throughout the southern states to feed and rest in small pools, sandbars, and stream sides.

Purple martins are antsy and begin to gather in small groups on telephone wires. They are aware of their thousands of miles of journey to Amazon jungles and begin to prepare for it by flocking. Before July gives way to August, millions will have left the States.

In late July and early August, I am usually greeted with the pensive, almost pathetic, plaintive note of the wood peewee. He usually visits us for about a month before he leaves for sunny South America. He sits silently in the tall pine trees on our back lawn and waits for passing insects. If you sit silently and wait, you can observe his leaving his perch, grabbing an insect with a snap of his beak, then returning to the same perch he left. He is as much a part of July and August day as are fireflies and katydids and the simmering heat.