The hot summer days of July have arrived and the forests that were once filled with bird’s song now give way to insect serenades. During the day, cicadas start to sing as soon as the temperature reaches 70 degrees and the meadows are filled with crickets and grasshoppers raspy calls. After the sun sets, the chorus grows as katydids join the other insects singing from high in the trees. The abundance of these insects provide a bounty for others animals as birds, fox, rodents and other insects utilize them as protein filled meals.
While most resident breeding birds have already fledged young, the brilliant black-and-gold American goldfinches and ornately colored cedar waxwings only now begin to gather nesting material. Birdsongs still dominate the sounds of early morning in the deep woodlands, but as the month’s end draws near, warblers, tanagers, thrushes and other resident species go quiet as the nesting season winds down. Young red-shouldered and broad-winged hawks are now patrolling the woodland edges. The very first of the year’s migrant shorebirds are heading southward, and blackbirds again begin to build in flocks.
July is high time to find a virtual cornucopia of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Flashy swallowtails, sulphurs, azures, and fritillaries adorn the heads of grassland wildflowers. The airspace above wetlands, ponds and lakes is a flurry of wings with skimmers, dashers, darners, forktails, and pondhawk dragonflies and damselflies mating and catching small insect prey. By the end of July, warm evenings bring on the trilling and buzzing serenades of katydids and grasshoppers.
The stunning colors of large rosemallow and pickerelweed flowers adorn the edges of wetlands and ponds. Milkweed – the host plant of the monarch butterfly – begins to explode its crown of pink flowers. Large fields hold tall stands of purple ironweed and its look-alike Joe-pye weed, purple coneflower, Queen Anne’s lace, all important plants for nectaring insects. Jewelweed is flourishing in vast clumps in sunlit patches of woodlands and woodland edges. By the end of July, early goldenrod, first of many goldenrods to bloom, becomes a harbinger of autumn as it adds touches of bright yellow to shady open places along parkways.
Male white-tailed deer antlers finish their rapid growth this month, but remain covered in soft velvet, while the fawn’s spots begin to fade as summer passes.