Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.
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We are now in early July. This summer month has much to offer. Our hottest month is also often very wet and likely to produce thunderstorms. Along with these climatic and weather conditions, we see many responses in the world of nature. Plants that had flowers earlier in the spring season reach maturity and now have berries and fruits. During these hot days, we'll notice ripe strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, juneberries, elderberries and pin cherries.
The June morning is clear and cool. We have a heavy dew along the road and trail. And as I get to the lake on this early hour, a mist rises from the bay. In the calm quiet at this time, many birds are singing in the nearby woods. I hear rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanager, wood thrush, veery, least flycatcher, several species of warblers and the persistent red-eyed vireo. As I approach the lakeshore, two summer frogs that have recently begun calling, green frog and mink frog, add their sounds to the scene.
We have reached the summer solstice, the day of the longest daylight of the year and the first day of summer. As we progressed through the approximately 90 days of spring, we could watch the changes regularly. We began the season at the equinox where daylight hours were about the same as darkness. Now we have nearly twice as many hours of light as not. The responses over the weeks have been amazing. We may even find it hard to remember the ice, snow and subzero temperatures from early spring.
The summer solstice this year will be about a week from now, June 21. It is on this date, with sunrise at 5:14 a.m. and sunset at 9:07 p.m., that we experience the longest hours of daylight for the whole year, nearly 16 hours. The days leading up to this seasonal landmark and the time following are almost as long. For the entire month, June gives us more daylight than any other month. It is also statistically our wettest month with an average of more than 4 inches of rain. And at this time of year we can expect warm weather, even some hot days.
Not everyone appreciates being up and about at 5 a.m. But with long days that we now have at this time in June with sunrise at nearly 5:15 a.m., the day gets off to an early start. Typically, this is the coolest and often the calmest time of day. And many of the Northland's avian residents use these quiet hours to proclaim their territorial ownership with vocal sounds we call songs. Without the rustle in the newly grown leaves in the winds, their songs of ownership go out far, telling others of their kind that this site is taken for nesting and raising a family.
Like many Northlanders, I was a bit surprised when I looked out on the morning of May 19 and saw some fluffy snow on the deck. To show that this was not an illusion, when I walked on the road a little later, I was greeted by a passing shower of more snow. While it is not unusual for snow to fall in May, it usually does not happen this late in the month. But before the day was over, we were experiencing another "snow "of a different type. There was a fluff in the air that was drifting through the region. Though scattered at many sites, it was most obvious when falling on the lake.
We are in late May. The canopy that has been greening many of the last several weeks is now nearly complete. Only the largest trees of the woods, along with a few late responders, have not grown the chlorophyll organs. (I have found that bigtooth aspen, black ash and sumacs are usually the last to take on their green attire.) The forest is becoming shady and the spring wildflowers that thrilled us early in the month are now giving way to the more shade-tolerant plants.
When we go through this time of May, it is hard to not notice all the happenings among the trees. At the start of the month, they began opening leaves, the smaller trees first. This was quickly followed by the greening of quaking aspens. They are such common trees in the Northland that when the aspens formed green leaves, many places took on a completely different look. Lots of the bigger maples, oaks and basswoods are still largely devoid of green foliage, but these will appear by the end of the month.
It's been said that in the springtime, the changes in nature are so likely that each day we will see something new from the day before. I believe that is true for the whole spring. But when we get to mid-May, I think that the changes appear around us almost hourly and what I see on my evening walk adds to what was seen on the morning wander. With long days, sunrise before 6 a.m. and sunset after 8 p.m., this is the time of migrants. The sparrows, thrushes, blackbirds and various water birds that arrived earlier may be nesting now.
We have entered the amazing and ever-changing month of May. What begins with a woods devoid of a leafy canopy and blossoms will take on a new appearance in coming weeks. By the time we exit, the branches will be full of a green foliage overhead and many woody plants will hold scores of blossoms along the way. The longer days (15 hours of daylight by mid-month, another half-hour by the end) invite the wintering migrants to return.