July 2: I turned on the mister for most of the afternoon, placing my chair under the mist so I could cool off while watching our resident male hummer darting through the cold water. Since our spring season was so very cool, our growing season has been a bit behind. My hummingbird/butterfly garden plants are close to blossoming and today the evening primrose opened up along the east side of the house.
July 3: Our bird species list total for the property increased by one today. A beautiful Black-billed Cuckoo hopped from limb to limb in the canopy feeding on insects. Such a striking bird that we enjoyed observing.
July 5: We drove down our favorite backroad for butterflies today and what we saw was so very disturbing. Or make that what we didn't see. This area is teeming with common and swamp milkweed and it's a great habitat for many species of lepidoptera, including Monarch butterflies. Today we sighted only three within the entire stretch of road- two on the wing and one nectaring on the milkweed. Last year at this time there were dozens upon dozens of Monarchs in this area. Reports are coming in from all over the U.S. that their numbers are down and almost nonexistant in some regions do to loss of habitat in S. America and hurricaines & snowstorms that killed millions of these beautiful butterflies. It was very eerie to be standing in a field of milkweed watching only one Monarch nectaring. And very sad.
July 7: One of the does finally brought her young fawn closer to the house today. Such an energetic and curious deer, she'd rush at the feeding birds and squirrels then buck around playfully in a circle. They're just so precious and smart. Her mother is the doe I nicknamed 'weezie' because she wheezes/snorts at us if we get too close. She blats at the fawn to call her, and the fawn blats back- they sound so much like sheep when they call to each other.
July 11: While searching along our favorite butterfly trail today, I came across a pair of nesting Mourning Warblers. The male was absolutely stunning in his bright plumage.
July 12: My fellow nature enthusiast/friend Louise sent me two gorgeous cocoons to raise today- a Luna moth cocoon and a Polyphemus Moth cocoon. I've placed them in my mesh butterfly enclosure and they should emerge anywhere from July 15 through the 22nd. I released 4 Lunas last year but they were deformed, so I'm really excited to see how these two progress.
July 13: After doing some snorkeling on Loon Lake in Oscoda Co, we ventured into the thick decidious forest that borders the lake. The definite highlight of this day was hearing the beautiful call of a Whip-poor-will echoing through the forest area. The trees along the shoreline were alive with many juvenile birds including a flock of Cedar Waxwings that were feeding on pine nuts. Eastern Kingbirds were numerous.
July 17: The temps soared up to the mid 90's today and all of the wildlife, including the birds, are making good use of the pond.
July 19: While trying to photograph butterflies nectaring on oranges, a beautiful juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker landed on the birch tree to feed on the fruit. They're straying further from the parent birds all the time but still call to them constantly.
July 20: Not far from home, a lone male American Kestrel sat alone in the early spring. Within weeks a female joined him and we have watched the pair throughout the summer season hovering over the meadows, diving down to snatch a meal, or perched on the power lines that stretch above the roadside. Looking up to watch the kestrels on this stretch is automatic- just as natural as flipping on the turn signal, done in habit. Their sillouettes can be seen from the stop sign of our own road, part of the familiar landscape and view. Yesterday when we rounded the corner, additional sillouettes could be seen from a distance. Two beautiful juveniles now join the adults- 4 American Kestrels all in a row.
July 21: Finally received some rainfall overnight, so decided to visit a nearby lily farm for a few perennials and hostas. The huge wandering gardens at timber ghost lily farm are just magnificent, with over 400 varities of lilies. Birds were quite active and we sighted quite a few species on the drive including a small flock of 4 juvenile Brown Thrashers.
July 25: Mourning Cloak caterpillars were abundant around the west side of the property today. I brought 6 of them in, disinfected poplar leaves for host food, then placed them in an enclosure. They're quite large and probably in their last instar, where they shed their skin.
July 29: Spending alot of time out with the moths in the evenings. I continue to find new species and id'ing them is such a challenge, but one I enjoy. The Barred Owls keep me company while out in the night, always calling around dusk with a loud Hoooowahhhh. This is usually repeated only once, then they are silent for most of the night. Many of our summer birds are starting to dispurse, like the Baltimore Orioles- we no longer see them feeding on the property. Sighted a Northern Goshawk streaking across the backyard today while the woodpeckers all scattered. Had our first ever black eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on the property yesterday, and the eastern tailed blues arrived today. Such a delicate little butterfly, with the most awesome shade of blue in their upper wings. I also came across the coolest looking caterpillar I've ever seen. A beautiful Silver-spotted Skipper cat busy building his new silk home in a folded racemed milkwort leaf.