During August along the Towpath Trail, we are blessed with our summertime resident birds such as Indigo Buntings, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Goldfinch, Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Song Sparrows and more. Those of you with keen ears will start noticing the distinctive "movement" calls of our many Yellow Warblers, mostly young birds that are already thinking about migration.
It's August and the Dog Days of Summer are Upon Us
By Chuck Slusarczyk, Jr.
It's August and the dog days of summer are upon us. No one needs to remind you about the heat and humidity, the two or three showers a day or the need to stay hydrated...we are all living it and our local wildlife and plants are also enduring the same conditions. "It's summertime, and the living is easy..." memorable words by the immortal Ella Fitzgerald but in reality, summer can be harsh especially in periods of drought. We are lucky in Tremont by having the Cuyahoga River so close at hand where birds can always go to get a drink and a bath, but rain always makes this easier.
The term "Dog Days" comes from the star Sirius (Canis Major), the "Dog Star" which is the brightest star in the summer skies of the Northern Hemisphere and coincides with the hottest days of the year. If you are so inclined, you can see this star by following Orion's belt down and to the left just above the horizon.
During August along the Towpath Trail, we are blessed with our summertime resident birds such as Indigo Buntings, Red-winged Blackbirds, American Goldfinch, Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds, Song Sparrows and more. Those of you with keen ears will start noticing the distinctive "movement" calls of our many Yellow Warblers, mostly young birds that are already thinking about migration. The majority of our resident birds have pretty much finished up with their second broods by now and only some will be thinking about a third, and now is the time to regenerate and finish up with molting into new feathers and preparing for autumn.
Overall, birds tend to lay low during these hot days and this is why many birders look towards other creatures during these times. Summer is the time for insects! Many birders have learned how to trade their birding skills into insect identification skills, especially when it comes to butterflies, moths or dragonflies and there are many online and Facebook resources to help with this endeavour. The trail below West 7th Street is particularly good for butterflies, especially where Mary Avenue intersects with the trail. The hillside there is full of Purple Coneflower, Black-eyed Susans and Monarda, all good plants for butterflies and even some moths. Keep your eyes open for Great Spangled Fritillaries, Monarchs, Viceroys, Clouded and Orange Sulphurs, Eastern tailed-Blues, Summer Azures, Cabbage Whites, Black Swallowtails and Pearl Crescents to name just a few of the butterflies possible. When it comes to moths, the ones you want to look for are the so-called "hummingbird moths". These moths look for all the world like a tiny hummingbird as they fly from flower to flower to sip on nectar. The Snowberry Clearwing is one and the aptly named Hummingbird Moth is another and they can sometimes be found together.
Dragonflies such as Wandering Gliders and more can often be found a long ways from water and often patrol the edges of the trail, so keep your eyes open for them as well!
So, while our birds may be a little hard to find during August there is always something beautiful for us to keep our eyes open for, but don't worry...autumn migration arrives long before the season is officially declared!
Happy Trails to you! :-)
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