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August is summer slipping toward fall rapidly
August brings silence and rest to the bird world. It is a time of giving up the defense of prized territories because nesting season is over for most of them. There is only the occasional robin call, or a flicker’s sharp cry, or a bubbly wren, but no bird song.
Vegetable and flower gardens suffer from even a touch of drought, but wildflowers and weeds flourish. Milkweed, Joe Pye and Ironweed sway in the August breeze. Queen Anne’s Lace lifts its face to the sun and blooms beautifully as does the wild morning glory, uncurling on the roadsides. There is a profusion of daisies, Mullein, evening primrose and Black-Eyed Susans. All have wild vitality, patience, and persistence regardless of seasonal conditions. They have survived centuries of weather cycles.
Wild plants, or weeds as man has labeled them, are part of the green cycle of the earth. It is one of the strongest and most durable of nature’s cycles. The wild flowers ask for no tending, just appreciation.
Seeds rule August insuring next year’s wildflowers. They are persistent, insisting on preserving nature’s eternal life force. Mother Nature usually banks a lot of seeds.
To many humans August is just another summer month, but in the wild world it isn’t the case. August skies are filled with birds. Wild populations are bursting with increase because of all the fledgling birds that are young adults now, and for other wild creatures it is the same.
The Eastern Phoebe, a plain brown and white bird with what seems to look like a too large head is a favorite in many backyards. It is one of the earliest birds to arrive, often by late March, and stays longer in the fall than other flycatchers that are on the wing by mid-August moving south. The Eastern Phoebe shifts the daily diet to include a variety of berries to go along with the insects. It is an easy bird to identify, sitting on a limb bobbing its tail. It has a simple call of “fee-bee.” Its nesting season is over.
The phoebe perches on a limb and flies out to catch insects on the wing. Often the insects are caught in mid-air. Also, the phoebe hovers over leaves searching for insects. An enormous amount of various insects make up the summer diet of the phoebe, including small wasps, bees, beetles, flies, grasshoppers and anything else flying. It also likes spiders, ticks and millipedes. Small fruits and berries are added to the diet as the insect population declines in late fall.
Both male and female feed the babies while in the nest. He defends the nesting territory by singing, starting about dawn. Sometimes the male has two mates at the same time, and must work doubly hard to feed two nests full of babies. Nesting time is the closest association phoebes have. They are not friendly with those of their own species, and the male and female of a mated pair don’t hang out together often. They tolerate birds of other species better than their own.
The female is the nest builder, taking about a week, if she doesn’t reuse last year’s nest. The male accompanies her on the many forays for nest materials, but does not participate in construction. Eggs are laid between mid-April and early May. The birds leave for the southern part of the U.S. by late September or the first week of October, wintering in Florida and along the coast to Texas into Mexico. The Valley plays host to many migrating phoebes in the fall that stop to rest and feed for days on their way south.
The Inn on Mill Creek Bed and Breakfast’s blog mentions their phoebe is a longtime resident, nesting above the back porch door. The bird constructed the original nest in 2008. It has made several upgrades to the mud and grass nest over the years. The Inn on Mill Creek is located close to Old Fort. The owners aren’t sure if it is the same phoebe that returns yearly. If it isn’t, it is most likely an offspring of the original nest builder.
Chimney Swifts are congregating in large groups preparing to migrate.
The Cape May, Tennessee, Magnolia and Blackburnian warblers, that look like small Baltimore Orioles, are moving from their northern nesting grounds through the Valley now on their way south for the winter.
Black Bear yearlings are establishing territories of their own, while this year’s cubs are still nursing and following mama and learning about the world they live in.
Keep out plenty of water for drinking and bathing. Wash the algae out of the bird baths. Take in the bird feeders, including the hummingbird feeders, by late afternoon to prevent black bears from emptying them.
May you always hear the whisper of wings.