Now that summer has officially arrived, I want to look ahead to some of the events in nature that we can expect over the next three months. As for the long-term weather forecast, seasonal temperatures are expected this summer with frequent swings from hot to colder. These swings will mean a higher risk of severe storms. Above-normal rainfall and muggy conditions are expected, as well. Unfortunately, this appears to be the perfect recipe for abundant mosquitoes.
In addition to the events in nature listed below, I have included a number of outings, which are open to the public. For more information on outings, go to peterboroughnature.org/events/
- Today, June 21, marks the summer solstice. The sun rises and sets at its furthest points north. Take note of where the sun rises and sets in late June and then again in late December. You’ll be amazed at the difference.
- Turtles can still be seen along roadsides and rail-trails laying their eggs. Remember to slow down in turtle habitat.
- Monarch butterflies have returned – the “grandchildren” of those that flew to Mexico last fall.
- On June 30, Dave Milson and Matthew Toby will be leading an all-day search for breeding birds of Peterborough County. Meet at Riverview Park and Zoo (north parking lot) at 7:30 a.m.
- Late June nights are alive with fireflies. The male will typically fly low over a meadow and flash his heatless light in a specific pattern, colour and duration. The female then responds with her own luminous signal, usually from the ground, thereby allowing for a nocturnal rendezvous.
- With bird activity winding down, now is the time to pay more attention to our many species of butterflies. Tiger swallowtails, black swallowtails, white admirals, northern crescents, European skippers and clouded sulphurs are particularly noticeable.
- Cedar waxwings nest any time between late June and early August as berry crops, their main source of food, begin to ripen. In late June and early July, reddish-purple serviceberries are a common source of food.
- Family groups of common mergansers are often seen feeding and traveling along shorelines on lakes in the northern Kawarthas. Because broods of mergansers sometimes combine, it is not uncommon to see a female with a parade of 20 or more young in tow.
- Common milkweed is in flower and its rich, honey-sweet perfume fills the early summer air. The scent serves to attract insects whose feet will inadvertently pick up the flowers’ sticky pollinia – small packets containing pollen – and transfer them to another plant.
- A huge number of other plants are blooming, as well. In wetland habitats, watch for common elderberry, swamp milkweed, Joe-Pye weed, yellow pond lily and fragrant white water lily. Along roadsides and in meadows, common species include bird’s-foot trefoil (often on lawns), ox-eye daisy, yarrow, viper’s bugloss, black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne’s lace, purple-flowering raspberry and orange hawkweed.
- Join butterfly expert, Jerry Ball, to explore the diverse habitats of Sandy Lake Road (off County Road 46) and its abundance of butterflies. Meet at 9 a.m., July 14, at the Country Style at the corner of Hwy 7 and Old Keene Road.
- Identifying and photographing dragonflies is also a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon. Among the most common July species are the dot-tailed whiteface, common whitetail, four-spotted skimmer, and chalk-fronted skipper. Some of the most frequently seen damselflies are powder-blue in colour, hence the common name of “bluets.” Go to odonatacentral.org/ for pictures of all Ontario dragonflies and damselflies. Click on “checklists” and then type “Ontario” in the search box.
- By mid-July, the buzzy, electric song of the dog-day cicada fills the void created by the decrease in bird song.
- Watch for mushrooms such as white pine boletes and fly agarics. Summer – not fall – usually produces the greatest variety of fungi. The wet conditions this summer should result in a large mushroom crop.
- Mid-summer is a wonderful time for learning about ferns. On July 21, Sue Paradisis and Trent MSc candidate, Kathryn Tisshaw, will lead an outing to discover the ferns of the Warsaw Caves Conservation Area. Of special interest is the rare walking fern. Meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Riverview Park and Zoo or at 10:30 at the Warsaw Caves park gate house. Wear sturdy footwear, and bring binoculars, your phone, insect repellent and cash for park admission
- Late July through September offers some of the best shorebird watching of the year. Semipalmated sandpipers, pectoral sandpipers and greater yellowlegs are several of the most commonly seen species. Presqu’ile Provincial Park is a great shorebird destination.
- The ghostly-white Indian pipe blooms in the heavy shade of hardwood forests.
- Being opposite the high-riding summer sun, the summer moon travels low in the southern sky. This translates into the longest moon shadows of the year.
- Listen for the high-pitched “lisping” calls of cedar waxwings and the “po-ta-to-chip” flight call of the American goldfinch. Waxwings often perch on the branches of dead trees and sally out to catch flying insects.
- August is a good time to check milkweeds for the yellow-, black-, and white-striped caterpillars of the monarch butterfly. They are easy to rear in captivity and provide adults and children alike with a first-hand lesson in insect metamorphosis.
- On August 15, join Paul Elliott for a night walk in Jackson Park. Paul will be using ultrasonic detectors to pick up the high-frequency sounds made by foraging bats. Meet at the lower parking lot off Fairbairn Street at the corner of Parkhill Road at 8:45 p.m.
- By mid-August, ragweed is in full bloom, and its pollen has hay fever sufferers cursing with every sneeze. The higher CO2 levels and longer growing season associated with climate change are greatly increasing pollen production. It is also causing Poison Ivy to thrive like never before.
- Small dragonflies known as meadowhawks abound. Mature males are red, while females and immature males are yellowish.
- Bird migration is in full swing by mid- to late August, with numerous warblers, vireos, flycatchers, and common nighthawks moving through. One of the best places to see nighthawks is Back Dam Park near Warsaw. Migration peaks around August 20 but continues into the first week of September. Go in the evening and watch the sky for loose flocks.
- On August 24, the Peterborough Field Naturalists will be travelling to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to view shorebirds and other fall migrants. The fall monarch migration will be starting, too, and arrangements are being made with park staff to conduct a demonstration of monarch tagging. Meet 7:00 a.m. in the Sobeys parking lot on Lansdowne Street west, adjacent to the Tim Horton’s.
- Watch for underwing (Catocala) moths, named for the bright colours of the underwings. The forewings, however, which often hide the underwings, look very similar to bark. These moths can be attracted by applying a sugary concoction to tree trunks. A cup of white sugar, two or more mashed bananas, one ounce of molasses, a bottle of beer, and a pinch of yeast to help with fermentation will usually do the trick. Look for the moths once it gets dark.
- Goldenrods reach peak bloom at month’s end and become the dominate flowers of roadsides and fields. These plants are veritable insect magnets, drawing in an amazing variety of species with their offerings of pollen and nectar.
- Pegasus, the signature constellation of fall, becomes visible along the northeastern horizon in the late evening. It reminds us to enjoy summer now because it won’t last!
- Monarch butterfly numbers are at their highest. Monarchs congregate at peninsulas on the Great Lakes such as Presqu’ile Provincial Park, a jumping off point for their migration across Lake Ontario. Don’t miss the monarch tagging demonstration at Presqu’ile from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on August 31 and September 1. Monarch expert Don Davis will be on hand to answer questions and even let you or your kids release a tagged butterfly.
- Chinook and coho salmon leave Lake Ontario to spawn in tributaries of the Ganaraska River. Huge salmon can be seen jumping up the fish ladder at Corbett’s Dam on Cavan Street in Port Hope.
- By late September, asters reign supreme. Their purples, mauves, and whites light up fields and roadsides and bring the year’s wildflower parade to a close. The most common species include New England, heath, panicled, and heart-leaved asters. They make a great addition to any pollinator garden.
- Most years, Virginia creeper vine, poison ivy, chokecherry, and staghorn sumac reach their colour peak at about the fall equinox, which occurs this year on September 23.
CLIMATE CRISIS NEWS
Don’t miss the CBC News series on the climate crisis called In Our Backyard. As the series’ website states, “Climate change is real, it’s happening right now, and it’s in our backyard in devastating, even deadly ways. Its fingerprints are all over this spring’s floods and wildfires.” In addition to looking at floods and fires, the series details how the climate crisis is affecting the lives of Canadians through extreme heat and Arctic thaw. To find the series online, go to cbc.ca/confrontingcarbon and scroll down to the In Our Backyard links. I would also recommend subscribing to CBC’s environmental newsletter, What on Earth? and the CBC podcast entitled Front Burner, especially the episode from June 18 on what it would take for Canada to meet its climate targets. As Diane Saxe, the former Environment Commissioner for Ontario says repeatedly, the climate crisis is far worse than you think. For an excellent overview of the situation in Ontario, search “Diane Saxe speaking on Climate Action – YouTube”