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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The month of August left us with several consecutive days that were quite hot. Despite the cool days earlier, August, like most of the months this year, was above normal in temperature. September began in a similar pattern and the heat told us that the grasp of summer extends into this month. Another condition that we coped with at this time was the haze in the sky.
Each year as we travel through our annual viewing of nature, many happenings take place. With some observations and a good memory, we're able to see recurring patterns. Things vary from year to year with weather, especially temperature and precipitation, but those phenomena are still present. Maybe one of the best examples is the leaf colors that take place on the deciduous trees each autumn. Now that we are in the changing month of September, we start to see it. And so it came as only a small surprise when I was walking recently and noted that this fall foliage show was now beginning.
As we exit this awesome month of August, the world of nature continues to be filled with varied and interesting happenings. For the first time since mid-April, we have a setting sun before 8 p.m. The sun rises at about 6:30 a.m. and in our shortening days, we quickly move towards the equinox of September. Along with this astronomical news, we also have cool mornings frequently filled with dew and fog. Such conditions are excellent for highlighting another phenomenon of this time, the abundance of spider webs.
The thermometer at 6 a.m. shows me a reading of 55 degrees. Last night was clear and cooled from the mid 70's of yesterday. This new day is calm and I see patches of fog in the swamp. Immediately as I step into the lawn and the roadside grasses, I notice the heavy dew. Calm conditions are great for walking through this dew in a nearby field. Here spider webs abound and late August is a terrific time to observe them. From now until the coming sunrise and warming temperatures, I plan to walk among these webs and threads. To reach this web site, I need to pass through a woods.
This awesome month of August continues to reveal news and nature happenings regularly. Each week keeps us looking for the latest changes. With sunset now at 8:20 p.m., we have an earlier darkness along with a later sunrise. The extended darkness gave us good conditions this week for the annual Perseid meteor shower. Also in the darkness, calls from crickets can be heard. These insects along with their cousins, the katydids and grasshoppers, are reaching maturity now. And as adults, they click and chirp as breeding time begins.
As we move through this awesome month of August, we continue to be delighted each day. There is always something new to see or hear. Bird songs are nearly gone from the scene now, but this is the time we hear the calls of adults and young birds as the family units gather, often blending with other species to make flocks. Later, many of these flocks, especially the warblers, will get restless and begin their long southbound trek. Along the roads and trails I have been noticing clicks, chips and chirps of another type as insects are calling.
According to the calendar, the midpoint between the summer solstice in June and the autumnal equinox in September is the first week of August. We are now in midsummer. The sunrises are getting later and the sunsets, being earlier, give us a daylight time that is more than an hour shorter than the solstice. As we continue through this awesome month, this shortened time will become more apparent. Garden produce has become a regular addition to the diet as well as the nearby raspberries, now flourishing and begging to be picked.
We frequently have some of the hottest days of the whole summer in late July. It is the time of midsummer. Blueberries, raspberries, juneberries, pin cherries and still some strawberries are ripe now. These juicy morsels are also quite colorful and the reds, purples and blues catch the eye of many hungry songbirds now feeding and traveling with their newly raised family. Small mammals such as squirrels, chipmunks and mice find these berries, as well as do the bears.
Each year as we begin summer in the Northland, we are treated to the performances of dozens of songbirds. They return from wherever they have spent winter and then scatter through the region for nesting. When at their home sites, they use vocals to tell other birds, both of their own species and of other kinds, that this territory is taken; these proclamations are often repeated. We hear these declarations of ownership each morning in what we call songs. Breeding Bird Surveys are always done in the month of June since this is the time of greatest songbird melodies.
July is a month of early harvest in the garden. Much of the produce; especially the greens, that have been growing through the long days of June can now be gathered. This is also seen with the berries. Wild strawberries, so common now, set the ripening pace in late June. This is rapidly continued with the domestic strawberries and it may be hard for us to think of the first half of July without expounding on these bright red juicy berries. The small tree, elderberry, comes of age at about the same time.