The weather finally turned around a little and we got some relief from the heat this week. I like the hot weather as long as it doesn’t carry on for too long. There are still some pesky mosquitos and black flies but nothing like they were a week ago. We even got a little bit of rain on Monday night but not enough to make much of a difference, it’s still pretty dry. It was the only time it’s rained since the third week of June and some of the garden plants are starting to show some stress. A beautiful full moon lit up the valley after the skies cleared and the rain clouds moved out.
There were lots of pretty flowers that came into bloom this week in the prairie meadow. The roots of the native prairie plants run very deep and are able to withstand the hot dry weather. Often their top roots will go down three times further than the plant is tall. Some of those that are in bloom now include the snow white flower heads of the yarrow and pretty yellow-centered Shasta daisies. There are a lot of showy black-eyed Susans this year, which means there will be lots of seed to spread around in the fall.
Some of the taller plants are in bloom now. The tiny blue flowers on the spikes of the vervain aren’t very big but together they make a very special show of blue. The pretty pink flowers of the tick trefoil are also very tiny but the bumblebees think they are very special. The stalk of the prairie dock may be eight feet tall and the yellow sunflowers on top look down on all the other plants in the meadow. Down near the creek is where I find the mountain mint and the lovely lavender marsh milkweed. I wish I could say that there are lots of butterflies visiting all these beautiful wildflowers but they are few and far between this summer.
It was just lucky that I spotted a nice fat American toad at my feet as I prepared to jump across the creek. A frog would have leaped out of my way but often a toad will just sit tight and let you pass.
Brown bats will sometimes find their way into the screen porch after dark, and I have no trouble catching them up in my butterfly net. There is no doubt they would rather be outside, so I always send them on their way out the door. I get along pretty well with the dozen or so bats that fly around the yard each night , in fact, I wish there were a few more around to help eat some of the mosquitos.
Tuesday morning I took a drive into town to the post office and on the way home I noticed a single killdeer at the edge of the road. She barely moved when I slowed down for a closer look and stood in the road while I snapped her picture. I suspect she had a nest hidden in the pebbles at the edge of the road, so I let her alone and went on my way.
It’s not often I get a very good look at the little green heron but there was one standing in the shallow water of a marsh pond just off the road. I pulled over and watched him for a while and he wasted no time catching a small fish, which he eventually swallowed head first in a single gulp. These little crow-sized herons prefer to nest in trees—more than once I have found their nests within the city limits.
The recent warm weather has caused an emergence of dragonflies. They are very good fliers and spend much of their time catching and eating mosquitos, their favorite food. One of my favorite dragonflies is the inch-and-a-half-long common whitetail. There are about 5,500 species of dragonflies worldwide, with some 450 species found in North America. A dragonfly’s eyes can have up to 30,000 individual lenses so it’s no wonder that they always see me coming. I also spot a pretty but very shy butterfly; a wood nymph flutters from one hiding place in the tall grass to another as I try to take his picture.
The flowers around the yard and garden are really coming on now, especially the many beds of bee balm. Up until now the hummingbirds were few and far between, but now that the red flowers are in bloom hummingbirds are everywhere. I can spend hours just watching them as they zip around from flower to flower, sometimes stopping to rest on a twig or branch. There may not be many butterflies this summer but I’m very thankful for the return of the hummingbirds. I love to listen to the song they hum as their tiny wings beat at 50 to 80 times per second. The male’s ruby throat is a reflection (not a pigment) of color and is seen only when the light falls on it at the proper angle. Hummingbirds feed mainly on small insects and spiders but drink a considerable amount of flower nectar.
It’s predictable that the weather will be unpredictable nowadays. The temperature dropped into the forties before sunup Wednesday morning. Seemed strange to see my breath in late July but I’m starting to accept the surprises of each new day.