Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The Dog Days of Summer
Summer arrived in August and we have finally experienced the heat and humidity which typically characterizes our Great Lakes summers. It is still raining frequently but between thunderstorms, a haze of moisture and pollution hangs over the city. We spend so much time indoors during our short winter days that I resent having to close the house up and stay indoors during hot weather and bad air days in the summer. But sleeping in an air conditioned house is a luxury I dare not complain about.
Dog Days refer to the hottest, most sultry days of summer. In my opinion, they should always be spent along the shores of large bodies of water. But my summer vacation is over so after work I sit on the deck in a shady corner, sip iced tea and watch the birds in the yard. I generally put food out for the birds only when I am outdoors. Unsupervised, the squirrels and grackles take over and gobble up my offerings very quickly. There is plenty of food available naturally for birds and animals right now.
We have a trio of Blue Jays who visit when they see peanuts. The young one is as large as the parents but is exceptionally noisy, even for a Jay, and quite clumsy. It spreads its wings and squawks like it did when still in the nest and then tries unsuccessfully to balance on the peanut feeder. When the Cardinals hear the Blue Jays, they too will come for a treat. At this time last year they were looking after their young who had not yet fledged from the nest in the lilac tree. They appear to be nesting nearby and the male and female come in turn to grab a nut for themselves and return to the care of their babies.
The Downy Woodpecker can be heard drilling the wood siding of nearby homes, but peanuts are also preferable and he will come by when I am out. The birds and animals always arrive in a particular order as if the presence of one signals to another that food is served and the area is safe. Chickadees always arrive first and their chirps bring the chipmunk out to investigate. The Downy Woodpecker is next and then the Cardinals and Blue Jays, who are the most cautious, compete for what is left.
The weather will cool off soon and it will be pleasant to walk on trails again. Fall migration is well underway and will peak in a few weeks. The dog days of summer will yield to crisp autumn weather in the inevitable procession of time.