posted on 7/2/24

July Nature Notes

And...It’s Summer

Can you believe it is already July? The sporadic weather has so many of us confused, but always be certain, nature will do its “thing” when it’s ready. Enjoy the magnificent insects this month. The prairies are blooming, and the flowers will be dancing with butterflies and amazing insects!

July’s full Buck Moon will appear on July 21, 2024. This moon is called The Buck Moon because the antlers of male deer (bucks) are in full-growth mode. They are magnificent to see all covered in velvet. According to the Almanac, there are several other names given to the month’s Moon, including the Feather Molting Moon and the Salmon Moon. There are so many names given to this moon that reference animals, plants, and weather.

Most songbirds have nested and fledged except Iowa’s State bird that waits until late July to early August to nest. Their cup-shaped nest is made of many plant fibers, thistle down, spider webs, and caterpillar web strands. Their favorite food sources are seeds that come from flowers that we call composites (the head of the flower brings together several tiny florets, so that they look like just one large flower). These types of flowers become more abundant in the late summer, such as sunflowers, coneflowers, asters, chicory, ironweed, black-eyed Susan’s, and goldenrod.

The young bald eagles of the year are being seen trying out their wings and hunting skills. For some, we call this the “toddler” stage, unpredictable and a little clumsy. It’s great to see the eagle families out and about again.

The prairies will be bursting with color this month as the blazing star, pale-purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susan’s, compass plants, and Rattlesnake master are swaying the prairie breeze.

The common milkweed bloomed heavily in June, the purple milkweeds, butterfly weed, whorled and swamp milkweed are, or will be blooming soon within the prairies and roadsides. Monarch eggs and caterpillars are continuing into their second generation. Numerous insect species, and hummingbirds can be found around all types of milkweed.

The buttonbush and wild bergamot will be teaming with butterflies this month. These plants are amazing at attracting our beautiful insects.

Numerous butterflies are being spotted, and more will flourish with the summer flower bloom. Here is a list of some that have been located around the area and the banks of Red Rock: Black swallowtails, common buckeyes, monarchs, painted ladies, red admirals, American ladies, orange sulphur, cabbage whites, summer azures, gray coppers, E.-tailed blues, viceroy, Great Spangled fritillaries, American snout, and numerous species of skippers.

National Moth Week will be July 20-28, 2024. Always a good time to explore nighttime nature. Visit a prairie area, or a large area with fragrant flowers to watch the White-lined sphinx moths, clearwings, and other beauties through the day!

Wetlands and surrounding areas are a great place to discover some of our most unique and ancient insects. Our real-life dragons and damsels are amazing insects that benefits the natural world and assist humans with valuable information about the environment. To begin with, the earliest fossils discovered from Upper Carboniferous (Pennsylvanian) sediments in Europe formed about 325 million years ago. The dragonflies and damselflies are a vital part of the aquatic food chain and are predators of mosquitoes and other pests. Spending much of their life under the water in a larval stage where it molts numerous times (approx. 6-15 times) the larvae development can vary from one to six years. Keeping track of some of the most interesting insects has been a big part of citizen science and has been most helpful in learning about climate change, dragonfly migration, and noting areas of thriving and/or declining species. And, most of all…they are just cool!

Oh! Don’t forget to listen for the song of the annual cicadas in camouflage and keep watch over the fireflies!

Enjoy your summer, more next month!

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