Right on cue, the heat and humidity came to the Kickapoo Valley in typical August fashion. It sure makes those of us without air conditioners slow down to keep comfortable. All outside work is finished before the temperature soars to 90 plus degrees. Heating water to wash dishes is also something you want to do early in the morning while it’s still cool enough in the hose to prevent you from sweating into the dish water. The humidity creates a few minor inconveniences, like matches that won’t strike and a useless salt shaker. The rain that came this week was much-needed but the thunderstorm which came early Monday morning brought some brisk wind gusts that scattered small branches throughout the yard creating another early morning job. I don’t mind picking up a couple of wheel barrels full of sticks, its par for the course after a windy thunderstorm. What breaks my heart is the way the wind has laid many of the tall blooming flowers over to the ground. The sunflowers, phlox and cleomes are no longer six or eight feet tall, but rather six to eight feet long. Their pretty flowers still there but now they are only a few inches from the ground, many covered from view. Oh well, it is what it is and some things can’t be fixed, so I move on.
A gray catbird flies from the cover of the lilac bush as I walk by. He lands on top of the wood pile and watches closely as I head down toward the spring. His “cat call” sounds more like a greeting than a scolding; after all, we greet each other every day. Truth be known, I think we both look forward to it.
Butterflies visit the flowerbeds every day. At any time I can count eight or ten by just looking around. It’s nice to see all these pretty “flying flowers” even though their numbers are still below normal. I paused to get a closer look at a little silver-spotted skipper as he held tight to the face of a colorful zinnia.
The sun came out after that Monday morning rain and by midafternoon it was hot and sticky and stayed that way until dark. I sat out on the back porch steps before sunset just to cool off and take in the little of what was left of the day. I couldn’t help but notice a dragonfly against the blue sky about tree-top high, and then another and another. Lots of them! It was impossible to count a bunch of fast-flying dragonflies but I guess I saw 20 of them. Trying to get a picture of zipping dragonflies is almost as hard as trying to count them, but I tried. I got a good enough picture to at least tell me what kind of dragon flies they might be. The one in the photo is called a green darner and this one is a male. He has a blue body and abdomen while the female is bright green. Darners have a 4-½-inch wing span and are extremely good flyers and predators, feeding on mosquitoes, bees, butterflies and wasps. These pretty dragonflies always appear this time of the year when the weather gets extra hot and humid.
A young red-tailed hawk rests on a fence post at the edge of the pasture; he’s been watching the short grass for grasshoppers, crickets, frogs and snakes. He’s beginning to get the hang of catching his own food and is pretty much on his own now.
It’s always sad to see any wild animal dead in the road. It’s especially sad to see a dead animal that is otherwise rarely seen, like the beautiful, male red-headed woodpecker. It’s first-hand proof that our unnatural speed really does cause damage to wildlife. Slow down, safe a wild life.
The damp soil along the creek bed is where the pretty tall sunflowers call home. The grass grows tall and lush here. The sunflowers are neighbors to the tall tick trefoil with stems of tiny pink flowers. The tiny pink flowers are a favorite of many of the bees and butterflies.
A majestic bald eagle stands on his favorite perch high above the river that passes by under him. From here he can see all that goes on around him, including the nice fat suckers that swim in the river below. Fish make up the bulk of the eagle’s diet. All he has to do is catch one and he’s got breakfast.
A daddy longlegs has found a cracker in the middle of the road, and he’s resting on top of it like it was a raft in the middle of a blacktop ocean. These curious-looking long-legged spiders aren’t really spiders at all; in fact, they are only distantly related to spiders and have more attributes that resemble those of flies. They are known as “eastern harvestmen” and they lack the fangs that spiders have; they do not bite and are not venomous. Harvestmen use their long legs for walking and don’t necessarily need to walk on all eight at once, they may use only four at a time. Their legs are also used for breathing, smelling and capturing prey—which apparently includes crackers.
The pretty little gold finches are already losing their bright yellow plumage of summer and many are eating the ripe seeds of the first green coneflowers that have dropped their petals. The yellow flowers are there to provide for the yellow birds.
Hope you enjoy the beautiful Kickapoo Valley in August as much as I do. Here’s a little of what I see every day: