Dog days?

We may grumble about the heat and humidity this time of year – but don’t blame it on your poor dog!

The term refers to Sirius, the “dog star,” which is part of the constellation Canis Major. Sirius aligns with the sun from July 3 until August 11. The Romans thought that caused extra heat.

OK, so it’s usually kind of hot about now – even without global warming. Wild flora and fauna can’t join us wimpy humans in front of the AC, however, so it’s still a good time to check out the beauty of nature.

Turkey Brood

Venture out during the cool of the morning, when the usually secretive turkey brood follows the hen onto the gravel road to dry off from the dewy grass. Don’t just curse the humidity. Delight in the sparkling drips of moisture hanging on the prairie grass and flowers.

Back inside for breakfast, you may watch the bird feeder for other creatures getting a morning meal. A young tufted titmouse – although seemingly large enough to be independent – still flutters and begs food from its mother. She obliges by poking a sunflower seed into the gaping mouth of her baby.

Hungry Titmouse

On the morning trip to the garden, you discover some not-so-welcome meal companions. Hornworms have invaded your tomato patch. Should you let them keep munching – or hope that a parasitic wasp attacks them and helps save your crop? Adding to the dilemma is the fact that the hornworm eventually will pupate and become a beautiful hawk moth, if given the opportunity.

 

Less conspicuous – but nearly as destructive – invasive Japanese beetles have perforated the leave of raspberries, green beans, and grapes, leaving only a lacey skeleton where they’ve been feeding. They get no sympathy, as you knock dozens of the shiny green pests into a bucket of soapy water.

During the mid-day heat, you’re envious of the turkey vultures that float overhead, creating their own breeze as they dip and soar in search of a carrion snack.

As the day wears on, other wildlife ventures out. Critters have no choice but to adapt. An always-hungry doe munches randomly – until she ambles into a patch of bergamot that happens to host a hog-peanut vine. She quickly focuses on the heart-shaped hog-peanut leaves, which apparently are a delicacy to Cervidae.

The freeloading raccoons aren’t connoisseurs. Mama ‘coon and her 3 kits seem content to dig for sunflower seeds spilled from the feeder.

We never could discern what the blue-gray gnatcatcher found to eat in the ironwood tree, however. The tiny bird flitted among the dangling seedpods. But the seeds inside were too hard for a beak made for catching insects.

As the Sun sank below the tree line and the air started to cool, we lounged in our lawn chairs to wait for the first stars. A chorus of katydids sang their names.

We were thankful for the bats that roost in the space between the side of the garage and the unused basketball backboard. No mosquito worries!

Summer doldrums? Hardly! Our glass is at least half full – just like the half moon that brightened our evening.

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