Itís been hot in the valley, too hot to do any gardening at mid-day. Hot and dry means carrying water to the young plants, a job I donít mind doing before the sun comes up. The sun was just appearing at the ridge top as I made my last trip to the spring for water. The dayís first butterfly lit at my feet, one I hadn't seen for a few years, a Compton Tortoiseshell. He was kind enough to stay put while I got my camera. I took several shots of this beautiful member of a butterfly group known as ďangel wings.Ē I went back through my field notes and discovered I hadnít seen one here since September of 2007. Itís always good to start the day with a nice surprise.
I often pinch the leaves of the wood mint at the edge of the woods. Pinching off a piece of leaf from some spearmint, I continued my walk along the creek with the taste of fresh mint in my mouth.
When I got back to the house, a little damselfly greeted me. They look kinda like dragonflies but they are smaller. Unlike dragonflies, the damselflies will fold their wings over their bodies when they land. Iím seeing a few more of these beautiful flies and I hope itís a dragonfly July.
I was greeted again by a large Stag beetle clinging to the screen door. I felt he was in a bad place having climbed so high, or he might just be having fun. Who knows? I helped him back to the flowerbed anyway, bid him good morning, and went into the house.
The little House wrens have been very busy since the day they arrived the end of April. Their lovely wren songs surround me all summer, and I donít mind their chitter-chatter. They have raised one family of little wrens already. Three days after the youngsters fledged, the parents were carrying sticks to another birdhouse. The male House wren sings while his mate sits tight on her clutch of tiny speckled eggs. A pretty male cardinal is also playing the waiting game, and takes a time out for some sunflower seeds at the feeder. He seems to have lost some of his nuptial brightness, but he is still the king of the red birds.
As it finally cools down in the evening, I carry the camera out to a spot in the prairie meadow where Iíve been pulling weeds. Itís a nice time of day to enjoy the natural world around me while I work. The sun has dropped below the ridge and casts long, cool shadows over the meadow. I get to work pulling Daisy fleabane and Queen Anneís lace, tall white clover and Canada goldenrod. After 12 years of hard work, the prairie meadow is beginning to live up to the name. The native flowers and grasses that I planted from seed are spreading. Because of all the flowers, itís a great place to see butterflies like the pretty Fritillary that lit a few feet from me. I always pause for a few moments to watch these large ďflowers on wingsĒ, or do they pause to look at me?
I drove by the eagleís nest yesterday and was surprised to see that one of the two eaglets had fledged. The other one was standing on a branch near the nest. She looked clean and healthy and ready to take on the world. It has been a successful summer for the pair of eagles; they have raised many young eagles in this nest over the years.
The large patch of tall sunflowers near the creek caught my eye this morning. They wonít come into bloom for another few weeks, but they looked beautifully lush and green standing together in the morning sun. Even without their bright yellow flowers, the sunflowers stood out together, a beautiful wall of green leaves.
A little web spider had done his handy work and built a web between two stalks of flowering blue chicory. Truly one of natureís amazing feats of architecture, the spiderís web is constructed to serve a definite purpose. Youíll never regret the time you spend watching a spider build his web. It will give you a whole new understanding of and respect for spiders. When I sat down in the grass to watch the spider, I nearly sat on a small brown snake. I saw him out of the corner of my eye and pulled up to let him crawl out of the way. Like the spider, the little snake was thinking of an insect to eat and he was searching the grass for his breakfast. The spider, because of his sticky web, waits for the insects to come to him.
My good friend, Andy, took some great pictures of a beautiful milk snake that he came across on his farm. The milk snake is a good mouser and a good friend to the farmer and anyone else who doesnít want to live with a lot of mice. Thanks for sharing the picture, Andy.
If we could look at the world through the eyes of wildlife, we would never take another day for granted. Itís summer. Be outside.
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