A white-tailed buck displays its still-in-velvet antlers

A white-tailed buck displays its still-in-velvet antlers

The first week of August brought some beautiful summer weather but a little more rain would make it perfect. Most of the lovely courtship songs of the birds have been replaced by the (not so melodic) begging calls of new baby birds. It will be almost a year before I again hear the beautiful courtship songs of the Baltimore oriole, rufous-sided towhee, wood thrush, whip-poor-will, and rose-breasted grosbeak and so on. In a way it’s sad, but, then again, I’m thankful for all the other wonderful natural sounds, like the buzzing of the bees, the stirring leaves in the breeze, the babble of the brook, the songs of the crickets, the chuck, chuck, chuck of a chipmunk who has hidden under the green foliage, and so on. There are always interesting sounds to look forward to in every season. The wonderful vibrant bird sounds of summer have ended with the mating seasons. The chorus of songbird music each morning fades as the courtships pass; it gets a tiny bit quieter with each passing day. Adult birds lose their earthly bond with their nesting territories and they, with their new fledglings, disperse over the countryside. I see it as one of the first signs that the quiet winter is inevitably coming.

Wild grape vines are showing up in the gardens and need to be tugged out. One of my favorite native vines is the light green and quick-growing wild cucumber. Often this vine will completely cover a brush pile or bush and continue on up to the lower branches of a tree. It forms a lush green blanket of star-shaped leaves and hundreds of stems that are covered with creamy-white blossoms.

Painted turtles bask in the sunshine

Painted turtles bask in the sunshine

Today I snuck up on a couple of painted turtles who were basking in the mid-morning sun. The warm rays felt so good to one of them that he yawned his approval. A little while later I spotted a young red-tailed hawk who had his feathers spread to catch the sun’s warmth. A family of Canada geese has gathered in the shallows of the marsh pond. Having eaten their breakfast, they all stand together preening their feathers in the morning sun while pops stands guard. The young geese are now flying and are no longer bound to the pond.

Three handsome white-tailed bucks venture out of the woods into a field of soybeans. They stick together through the summer months away from the does and fawns. The buck’s antlers are nearly completely developed yet still covered with brown velvet. Soon they will put on the bulk they need before the mating season begins in the fall, the soy beans will help. The little spotted fawns aren’t quite so little anymore and appear to be about half as tall as their mother.

This red-bellied snake narrowly escaped my innocent footfall

This red-bellied snake narrowly escaped my innocent footfall

The little red-bellied snake was motionless in the short grass but for some reason I spotted him before I put my foot down. This completely harmless little snake is one of my favorite garden visitors and I often pick one up for a little chat. There are a few butterflies who visit the flower beds, but not so many. I have noticed a few more monarchs this summer than in recent years; hope it’s a good sign.

My flower gardens are in great shape this summer

My flower gardens are in great shape this summer

The flower gardens around the yard are doing their job attracting the birds and bees and butterflies, if you please. The flowerbeds are beautiful this year and so far the hummingbirds outnumber the butterflies. It’s the first week of August and I’m not hearing any crickets in the valley. Oh, I think they are out there—they just haven’t started their courtship songs yet. The cricket music came late last year and hasn’t been consistent for several years. It makes me wonder if the cricket’s hatching dates are coming later. I’ve also noticed the absence of grasshoppers, not nearly as many as there should be by now.

Corn fields are tasseling all around the Kickapoo Valley

Corn fields are tasseling all around the Kickapoo Valley

Sights and sounds aren’t the only sensations I interact with while on a drive across the countryside. The rain that came on Monday smelled wet and sweet. It was like a fresh air transfusion after two weeks without rain. The yellow tassels on the corn gave the damp air a distinct scent of August, one of my favorite smells this time of the year. The field of sunflowers is packed tightly together with the happy faces of yellow flowers. The color yellow seems to be everywhere as the many varieties of wild sunflowers and coneflowers are now in full bloom. They will provide a treat for the bees and butterflies and produce seed for the wild birds this autumn and winter.

Here’s hoping that everyone is enjoying these summer months as much as I am. My best advice is to simply enjoy them—one day at a time.

Naturally yours,

Dan