Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Though September shows us much with all of the migration of birds, maturing of apples and other fruits and a plethora of mushrooms in the woods, it is the trees with their colorful leaves that grab our attention the most. The typical sequence of events is that most of the trees begin the month with green leaves. Shortening of daylight hours as we approach the autumnal equinox, causes the breakdown of green colors (chlorophyll) in the leaves and other colors, mostly yellow and red, will take over.
Whether driving, biking or walking in early September, it seems like I will be passing large growths of fall wildflowers in roadsides and fields. These abundant plants are mostly composed of a native trio that carries blossoms into the fall. Purple and white asters of about 10 kinds flower are here. Standing above them are tall plants with big yellow flowers: sunflowers. But when it comes to yellow colors, it is goldenrods that rule the scene.
We heard frogs a lot in spring. A trio began calling as soon as the ice went out. Two tiny ones — chorus frogs and spring peepers — woke from a hibernation to quickly find open water and begin their calls. These two diminutive frogs were joined by a slightly larger wood frog that added its "gluck-gluck" sounds to the early spring days and nights. These three set the pace for the breeding of local anurans. ("Anurans" is the term for both frogs and toads. It essentially means "amphibians with no tail.")
Dawn is cool — in the 50s — and calm with patches of fog. We don't always appreciate fog, but late-August mornings are often foggy, and for what I am seeking this morning, fog is a great help. Where there is fog, there is dew. These conditions are great for viewing the plethora of spiderwebs that abound in the fields of late August. The field that I walk in has a rich growth of goldenrods. All are dripping with dew this morning — many are as tall as I am.
I walk by a patch of wild blackberries before I enter the woods. During the second half of August, with the passing of blueberries and raspberries, these juicy berries are a great delight. More common in the southern part of the region, I'm fortunate to have them growing along my route. I stop and gather a few despite the thorns. A tree of chokecherries is here, too, but I pass this product of the season, leaving them for a flock of hungry cedar waxwings.
Walking in the woods of early August is a walk in shade. Often the temperature beneath the arboreal canopy is several degrees below that in the prevailing summer sunlight. It is also a quiet walk. Long gone are the songs of the smaller birds that two months ago regularly proclaimed territorial ownerships to these parts of this wooded habitat while they were raising their young. Now, all I hear is the persistent singing of red-eyed vireos, continuing after others have ceased.
According to the calendar, the first week of August is halfway between the summer solstice of June and the autumnal equinox of September; this is midsummer. However, with daylight shrinking from 16 hours of late June, August will often feel like late summer; the dog days are upon us. And changes happen.
The hot summer days of late July are a great time to see the progressing season. During my walks, I regularly find more wildflowers in the roadsides each day. Milkweeds and fireweeds of midsummer are now being joined by a scattering of flowers usually associated with late summer: goldenrods, asters and sunflowers. Here, too, in the open are products of the seasons: ripe berries of strawberries, raspberries and dewberries, while blueberries abound in woodland sites.
Though not the same as the astronomical calendar; June, July and August are defined as being meteorological summer. That means July 15 is midsummer. And as expected at this time, we regularly take note of the weather. Days are usually hot and frequently with storms. Since the hottest time of the day is in the afternoon, many of us find the morning to be a great time to walk. One of my routes is on a road that passes by woods, fields and swamps. Thanks to the summer weather conditions, I find nature news out here every day.
We tend to think of July mostly by its weather.