Too Hot Too Dry

moon phase Week of 07/15/2012 Best days to can fruits and vegetables.

As the late afternoon fades into twilight, the voices of the songbirds become fewer and fewer until they are replaced by the songs of night birds. House Finch Enjoys an Orange House Finch Enjoys an Orange Cardinals are the last at the feeders at dusk. A pair of barred owls call to each other from deep in the woods. A whip-poor-will repeats his song from across the grassy meadow that sparkles with fireflies. All is well, but I realized something was missing: insect music. There were no cricket songs or the buzzing chirps of Katydids. I couldnít help but wonder whatís up. Is it too dry? Are they having trouble adjusting to the abnormal weather cycle? Are their cycles out of whack? I donít have answers.

The frogsí mating season also fluctuated all spring. Frosty nights may have interrupted their courtship. The insects that coincide with the frogsí cycles were dealing with the same weather conditions. I canít help feeling that something just isnít right. There are lots of flying insects out and about, especially black flies, but where are the insects that fill the darkness with music? Panting Grosbeak Panting Grosbeak I have to believe that some rain could make a change.

Of all the hot weather Iíve experienced in my life, this past week was a doozy, and will always be one of my most memorable. It started with a high of 99 degrees and went over 100 each subsequent day with a dry high of 106 on Thursday. To say it was uncomfortable is an understatement. ďStiflingĒ would be a better word. All my daily chores are done before sun-up. It really is too uncomfortable to do anything when the temp is over 100 outside and 94 in the house. One doesnít stop perspiring until the sun goes down. It really makes me wish I didnít need to wear glasses. They fog up even when I sit still and read a book or try to write. Sitting at the drawing table is out of the question in weather like this. I was so thankful to see the full moon rise over the ridge. It made my job of watering the garden plants in the dark much more enjoyable, especially since  blackflies donít come out at night.

Catbird Catbird No matter how hot it is, wild birds seem to just go on about their business. They donít spend much time in the mid-day sun, and prefer to stay under the trees in the shade. All the birds eat about as much when itís hot as when itís cool, so the sunflower seeds  disappear at the same rate. I know they really appreciate the orange halves I put out for them, especially the house finches, red-bellied woodpeckers and catbirds. The only sign I see that the heat may be bothering them is the way they leave their beaks open to take in more air. All birds pant as a way to cool off.

I cool off by eating a watermelon that Iíve been keeping cold in the spring. Iíve been known to eat a whole watermelon on a hot day. It works for me. I ate four watermelons and three cantaloupes this week. Perfect Day for Watermelon Perfect Day for Watermelon I guess I like melons about as much as the birds like their sunflower seeds and oranges.

For the first time in years, the deer didnít eat the tops off the sunflowers I planted. Several of them are in bloom already. Deer love sunflowers, especially the tender new flower buds. In fact, they pretty much like to eat anything in the sunflower and daisy family.

The temperature dropped down to 94 on Saturday, and it almost felt good compared to the past five days. I could actually navigate a little without perspiring. A 90 degree day will never feel so bad anymore, knowing that it can get so much worse.

I was able to get a couple of interesting pictures of that mystery hummingbird I saw last week. I was sure it was the one. It had a very dark head and very little color. Then, it turned its head and the sunlight instantly turned the birdís throat to bright red. It was a male ruby-throat. Itís truly amazing how his feather colors change with the light. Mystery solved. Mammoth Sunflower Mammoth Sunflower There are many birds that have luminous feathers (feathers that change their color in different light), but those of the hummingbird are the most mysterious and reflective.

Itís been very dry and some of the wild flowers that are starting to bloom are pretty, but their flowers are a little smaller than normal. The pretty blue bells are a good example. They are as lovely as always, but the blossoms are noticeably smaller. Smaller flowers may mean fewer seeds, and fewer seeds might mean fewer bell flowers.

The young cliff swallows that were raised in mud nests under the bridge have fledged. They all seem to leave the nest at about the same time and gather together in the middle of the road. Iím impressed with how well they can fly on their first day out, but they donít know how to catch flying insects yet, so they depend on their parents to bring them a meal. It was very interesting to see about a hundred of them gather together in the road while they waited for their parents to bring them something to eat. Blue Jay Blue Jay They stood together in a quivering, chirping mass as the adults hovered over them. How the adult birds knew who was who is beyond me. Maybe they didnít know. Maybe it doesnít matter to them. When there are so many open, begging mouths together, maybe the adult birds simply  feed the first one they come to.

Iím glad to see that the young cliff swallows are fledging. As long as they are raised in nests under bridges, their lives are threatened by flooding. If floods come before they leave their nests, they could all be washed away. Itís heartbreaking tragedy, but it happens now and then.

Sunday the temperature was back to a normal high of 84, and itís cool enough at night to use a blanket. Now, if we could just get a little rain.

Naturally yours,

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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Ben from from Tybee Island,+GA on July 18, 2012 at 10:20:04 PM
I did not ever think about putting out orange halves. We have lots of house finches at our seed feeder, so I am putting out oranges tomorrow. Thanks for the idea.
Jan from from TN on July 18, 2012 at 08:51:51 PM
Dan, so sorry to hear you had the same weather we had in TN about two weeks ago, we went over two weeks without ANY rain. Everything suffered, and I found my "pet" catfish floating in the pond. Don't know if it was old age (it has about 20"long) or extreme weather. I'm gonna miss him. I really hope some of the rain we are getting now drifts up your way! The pictures are still nice. It was good to hear the birds, etc. are coping fairly well. With that heat, I would be in the spring with the watermelon! Happy Naturing.
Linda from from Viola, WI on July 18, 2012 at 04:50:39 PM
Hi Dan, just wanted to add that I have phlox loaded with insects, and to my surprise, I've had HONEY BEES again!! It's been years since I've seen any. I've been watering everything, so I'm sure that has helped keep my insects around. Even the black flies. (sigh)
Ardelle from from USA on July 18, 2012 at 01:57:20 PM
I really have enjoyed your column over the years. Keep up the great work. I have noticed a lot of bees seeming to drink from my bird baths - I have 3 - 1 on a pedestal and 2 on the ground. I have also had squirrels and rabbits visiting in the late day or very early morining.
terry from from NJ on July 18, 2012 at 01:24:13 PM
It's hot and humid here, too, I love the fall season the best. Thanks for your lovely story. I have a watermelon fetish as well. YUMMY
Ella from from St.Louis MO on July 18, 2012 at 12:49:04 PM
Very hot and dry here too! I "seemed" to notice that the Robins walked rather than fly! Am I imagining this? Thanks for all the information you give!!!!
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