The two words heard most this week were heat and humidity. Weíve gotten plenty of rain lately and some would say itís enough for a while. There has also been a good helping of sunshineóthe very thing that makes for beautiful summer days. Iím no stranger to working outside on hot humid days, and I must admit Iíve always liked it. Itís those sub-zero winter days that I have trouble dealing with, so summer has always been special to me.
These early summer mornings are cool, green and humid as the fog lifts from the river bottoms. With the fog comes danger for any wildlife that has to cross the road. It was too late for a driver to react as a little fawn ran out of the fog and onto the road. Itís a very sad ending for such a young life, not to mention that somewhere there is a mother with a broken heart.
A little Downy woodpecker had only been on the wing for a week before becoming a grill ornament on a large pick-up truck. Many young birds wonít make it through the summer because of the artificial trails. They make deadly boundaries that the wild ones donít understand until itís too late.
The happy little House wrens are busy building another nest in the hanging gourd on the back porch. They are tireless as they carry small sticks to their new home. The male occasionally sits on a nearby branch and preens his feathers before he sings his happy wren song...then back to work.
The female and male Rose-breasted grosbeaks come to the bird feeders every day and should start bringing their young any day now. I love to hear their songs as they come to the window feeders. Itís like having the birds right in the house with me.
A beautiful Red-tailed hawk stands on a branch of a dead tree and soaks up the morning sun. After a while she decides to fly across the meadow to where the hunting is better. An angry Red-winged blackbird chased her all the way across the meadow. The hawks canít fly anywhere these days without someone giving them a rough time. The adult hawks are still catching extra food for their young fledglings that left the nest a couple of days ago. The two young hawks are learning to hunt on their own but havenít learned that timing is everything. Until they get their hunting techniques right, they are often hungry. When mom or dad donít show up with something for them to eat, they spend their time catching grasshoppers and crickets. Sometimes they get lucky and catch a nice snake or frog. It takes experience to catch voles and miceólots to learn before winter comes.
The farmers canít complain. The corn in the fields is over knee high and looks good, and the soybeans have a good start. The sunshine and rain has kept the pastures growing green and those new calves are growing like weeds. Thereís lots of lush, first-crop hay to make, but sadly many grassland birds are lost when the hay fields are cut before the 15th of July. This has become more of a serious problem as grassland bird populations grow smaller and smaller. Itís a very important issue that I wish more farmers would consider. There are so many ways that we humans intervene with Natureís great plan.
The rain came down pretty hard again last night and the thunder and lightening was spectacular. The storm woke me in the night and I couldnít help but wonder if we were in store for some more flooding. The ground is pretty saturated and the two-and-a-half inches of rain that came Tuesday night quickly ran off the hillsides and into the river valley. By morning the streams and Kickapoo River had swollen over their banks. The high water may mean trouble for some wildlife but for a family of Canadian geese it just means more places to swim.
The powerful force of the rushing water moves anything in its pathóeven washing away the rich soil along the banks of the stream in the meadow. The flooding is part of Natureís way but it seems the high water is coming more often the past few years. This is the first year I can remember not having to carry any water to the new plants in the garden. In fact, the little plants would rather have some sun than more rain. If they could talk they would ask Mother Nature to turn off the water for a while.
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