“Seeing” often comes down to knowing what to expect. 

Peterborough Examiner  – June 21, 2024 – by Drew Monkman  

Like a celestial clock, events in nature tick off the time of year and the progression of the seasons. The predictability of these happenings – often within a few days of the same date each year – provides a reassuring counterbalance to the onslaught of dizzying change and heightened uncertainty that characterizes modern life. Witnessing these events often comes down to knowing what to expect. 

As I do at the beginning of each new season, I’d like to look ahead at some of the happenings in nature that we can expect over the coming months.Vagaries in the weather, of course, can have an effect on the timing and intensity of certain phenomena.According to The Weather Network, a hot and humid summer is expected across the province. There is also an increased risk for extended heat waves and powerful storms. There is some good news, however. Thanks to a wet spring, at least we’re starting the summer “well-watered”.   

To enjoy nature happenings with others and to learn from local experts, I highly recommend joining the Peterborough Field Naturalists. They have a full slate of outings this summer ranging from exploring butterflies and bats to canoeing along the Indian River. Go to https://peterboroughnature.org/ for more information.  

Remember to use the free iNaturalist app to identify and document the species you come across. As the climate crisis worsens, we need more people than ever to keep tabs on how species are changing. The app is fun and simple to use. 

Late June

  • Watch for turtles along roadsides and other sandy locations where they lay their eggs. If you see a turtle on the road – and if it’s safe to stop – help it get across. If you find an injured turtle, call the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre immediately at 705-741-5000.
  • The first monarch butterflies are beginning to show up in the Kawarthas. I actually saw one on May 17 which was my earliest ever. According to Chip Taylor on the Monarch Watch Blog, the number of monarchs overwintering last winter in Mexico was at a historical low (0.9 hectares). For details on whether the increasingly endangered monarch population can recover, go to https://monarchwatch.org/blog/
  • Late June nights are alive with fireflies. The males will typically fly low over a meadow and flash their heatless light in a specific pattern, colour and duration. The females then respond with her own luminous signal.  
  • Late June is also synonymous with butterfly-watching at its best. Some common species to watch and photograph are tiger swallowtail, clouded sulphur, white admiral, red admiral, great spangled fritillary, northern crescent, viceroy, and Dun skipper.
From top left clockwise: White admiral butterfly, chalk-fronted skimmer dragonfly, powdered dancer damselfly, chinook salmon jumping at Corbett’s Dam in Port Hope, red-eyed vireo, and ragweed in flower (photos by Drew Monkman)


  • One of the most common summer bird songs most everywhere is that of the red-eyed vireo. It sings non-stop, robin-like phrases from high in the canopy. You can use the free Merlin Bird ID app to identify it by sound.
  • July is infamous for deer, horse, and stable flies, which belong to the Tabanidae family. Deer flies have black-patterned wings, iridescent eyes and tend to fly around your head. Horse flies are larger, grey in colour, and have huge eyes. They prefer to bite lower on the body. Stable flies are house fly-size and have four dark stripes on the thorax. They often attack the ankles and are difficult to swat. They often show up at cottage docks.
  • It is hard to go anywhere near water in July and not notice dragonflies and damselflies. Many turn up in suburban gardens. Dragonflies have thick bodies, and their wings are open at rest. Damselflies are usually much smaller, have thin bodies and their wings are closed or only partially spread at rest. Many of the latter are blue in colour and include different bluets and the powdered dancer. Some common dragonfly species to watch for are the dot-tailed whiteface, common whitetail, four-spotted skimmer and chalk-fronted skimmer. An online guide can be found at https://onnaturemagazine.com/odonata-guide.html
  • A huge number of plants are bloom this month. 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 ox-eye daisy, yarrow, viper’s bugloss, black-eyed Susan, Queen Anne’s lace, wild bergamot, purple-flowering raspberry and orange hawkweed.
  • Mid-summer is a wonderful time to enjoy the wide abundance of ferns that we have in the Kawarthas. The Warsaw Caves Conservation Area, Silent Lake Provincial Park, and Kawartha Land Trust’s Ingleton-Wells Trail on Stoney Lake are three of my favourite fern destinations. 
  • Watch for mushrooms such as white pine boletes and fly agarics. Summer often provides the greatest variety of species of fungi.


  • Check milkweeds for the eggs and caterpillars of the monarch butterfly. Monarchs are easy to rear in captivity and provide adults and children alike with a first-hand lesson in insect metamorphosis. 
  • 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 dead branches.
  • Insect song is one of nature’s late summer highlights. Nearly all of it comes courtesy of crickets, katydids, grasshoppers and cicadas. It’s very satisfying to be able to put a name to the insect you’re hearing. For example, the soft, rhythmic “treet…treet…treet” of the snowy tree cricket sounds like a gentle-voiced spring peeper. A great insect song resource can be found at https://songsofinsects.com/.
  • By mid-August, ragweed is in full bloom and its airborne pollen has hay fever sufferers cursing. Goldenrod, which relies on insects to spread its pollen, is not the culprit.   
  • Small dragonflies known as meadowhawks abound. Mature males are red, while females and immature males are yellowish. They are common in suburban gardens. 
  • Songbird migration is in full swing by late August, with numerous warblers, vireos and other tropical migrants moving through our area. Two of my favourite Peterborough locations to see migrants are the South Drumlin Nature Area at Trent University and Meadowvale Park.
  • On August 31 and September 1, the Friends of Presqu’ile Park will hold their annual “Monarchs and Migrants” event.  A monarch tagging demonstration usually takes place  both afternoons. Bird banders will also be there both mornings to demonstrate the catching and banding of migrating birds. Go to https://www.friendsofpresquile.on.ca/ for more information. 


  • Large mating swarms of winged ants are a common September phenomenon, especially on warm, humid afternoons. Some are females – the potential future queens – but the majority are males. Ants bear wings only during the mating season.
  • 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. It’s quite a spectacle!
  • By late September, the purples, mauves, and whites of asters reign supreme in fields and along roadsides and represent the year’s last offering of wildflowers. The most common species include New England, heath, panicled and heart-leaved asters.  
  • Most years, Virginia creeper vine, poison ivy, choke cherry and staghorn sumac reach their colour peak at about the fall equinox, which occurs this year on September 22.


Hope:  Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says Canada could lead most of the world if Parliament passes new legislation meant to boost biodiversity. On June 13, Guilbeault tabled Bill C-73 alongside Canada’s 2030 Nature Strategy. One in five species in Canada face some level of extinction risk, increasingly as a result of climate change. The bill compels the environment minister to establish a national biodiversity strategy and to report on actions taken to achieve the  targets. The current strategy includes conserving and protecting 30 per cent of Canada’s land and marine areas by 2030. About 15 per cent is already protected but we need to double this figure in just six years. 

Carbon dioxide: The atmospheric CO2 reading on June 17 was 426.83  parts per million (ppm), compared to 423.46 ppm a year ago. The CO2 levels in the atmosphere serve as the single best real-time signal as to whether the world is on track to a safer future. Unless the readings are declining, the answer is no.

Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.