July 25, 2007
By Sue Benson
Director of Education, Cable Natural History Museum
Keep your eyes out for the Eastern gray treefrog, a common species throughout Wisconsin. The population of these frogs has been increasing, possibly because of their ability to survive on the edge of human development. This treefrog prefers forested uplands near water to sustain good populations. Its scientific name, Hyla versicolor, is appropriate as its color varies depending on the temperature and surroundings, changing from bright green to gray with a range of mottled colors in between.
Sandhill crane chicks and young mallards have learned to fly in the past week. Crows have begun to flock together, and are often seen out in the fields, probably feasting on grasshoppers. Bird songs in the forest have decreased to almost nothing with the end of the nesting season. Keep your ears tuned for the few songs that remain – that of the veery (a resonating, ethereal descending song,) great-crested flycatcher (ascending wheep,) red-eyed vireos (Here I am, where are you? sounds), and the American robin.
Serviceberries and pin cherries should be peaking now. Sunflower, joe pye weed, spotted jewelweed, and goldenrod are in bloom. Goldenrods often have a “bad rap” for the onset of summer hay fever. These plants do produce pollen but in small quantities, heavy and sticky, attracting insects for pollination, but not carried on the wind. It is instead common ragweed that ushers in the hay fever season as this plant now begins to bloom. Although not recognized by most people, the tiny ragweed flowers produce huge quantities of very light pollen that is caught by the wind and can be carried for distances greater than 125 miles.
Common butterflies flitting about on blooming wildflowers include the white admirals, identified through their black wings with a broad white band; and fritillaries, a common group of butterflies of different sizes that can be seen in sunny meadows, with wings that are orange with broken black spots and occasional metallic silver marks.
Chipmunks begin collecting and storing seeds now through the end of October and can cache away as many as eight pounds of food to eat during the winter. Deer antler growth is nearing its peak. In the aquatic world, northern pike and muskellunge fingerlings are leaving the shelter of wetlands for open water.
For early risers, Mars and Mercury are both visible before sunrise in the eastern sky. For those who are late to bed, the Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on July 28. The meteors can be seen over many nights before and after that date, so get outdoors to catch a shooting star. The second full moon of the month is July 29.
Become a phenologist! Begin recording the dates you observe the blooming of your favorite flowers, or the last day you hear the beautiful song of the veery in the forest in your backyard. Collect annual data that will allow you to create your own almanac so that you may notice how climate and weather play a major role in the life cycles of plants and animals.
Nature Watch is brought to you by the Cable Natural History Museum. For 40 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility in Cable at 43570 Kavanaugh Street or on the web at http://www.cablemuseum.org/ to learn more about exhibits and programs.