Turkey and young

An adult turkey stands with juveniles of the species.

The summer solstice, that time when day and night are of equal length, has passed.

Since the solstice, every day has been a few minutes shorter than the day before, every night a few minutes longer. The difference isn’t noticeable from one day to the next, but time of sunrise indicates it.

Day length is one indication of the changing season, but there are many more. The activities of many birds indicate the changing season. Robins no longer sing to the dawn and their nests are empty, their nestlings out of the nests, first broods now on their own and fledglings from second broods are following adults, learning to find food for themselves.

The pair of barn swallows that nested in our barn are feeding nestlings in a second brood. Tree swallows, bank swallows and rough-winged swallows are no longer nesting. Adults and fledglings scour the sky for insects during the day, taking breaks now and then, lining up on power lines.

Red-winged blackbirds have raised their broods and are now gathering in segregated flocks, males in flocks of males, females in flocks of females. Canada geese have goslings, some of the goslings nearly as big as the adults, and mallards and blue-winged teal and other ducks have ducklings.

I’ve seen turkeys leading poults.

Plants are other indicators of the changing season. Trees and bushes are still leafy green, but a few are showing changes of color. Sumac leaves are fading, turning red. More and more trees will be taking on fall colors as the season progresses.

Flowers of spring and summer are going to seed, flowers of late summer, day lily and queen anne’s lace, are in bloom. Dodder, another late bloomer, a flower of the morning-glory family with small white blossoms, is in bloom. Rattlesnake-masters, an introduced species and another late bloomer, is in bloom. Wild sunflower, partridge-pea, sticktight, early goldenrod, marsh-mallow, another introduced species, closed and stiff gentian, New England aster, all are in bloom.

Many thistles are beyond blooming, loosing their seeds on downy threads of white. Goldfinches, late nesters that line their cup-shaped nests with thistle down are incubating and feeding nestlings.

I’ve seen young deer, fawns, and young woodchucks, raccoons, opossums and squirrels, all recognized by their size, smaller than adults. I’ve seen small snakes, earthworms in the lawn after a rain, crickets and moths and butterflies, all these and many more are fair weather critters that will disappear when nights become frosty.

Nature, all outdoors, bird and mammals, insects and other creepy crawlies, frogs and toads and turtles, trees and bushes and wildflowers, is continuously changing. Even the change is changing. The average temperature around the world is warming. The temperature of the oceans of the world is rising and so is the level of the oceans.

The gases of the air have changed and continue to change. Carbon dioxide has become one of the most plentiful gases of the atmosphere. Methane has increased. Both carbon dioxide and methane continue to increase.

Snow and ice are melting around the world. A personal note, many of the glaciers of Glacier National Park have melted. One, a glacier where my family and I sat on the ice as we ate lunch when we visited the Park, where we saw a white-bailed ptarmigan as we enjoyed the scenery and our food, is gone. And what will Glacier National Park be called when all the glaciers are gone?

Changing day length is a natural phenomena. The time of the activities and distribution of birds and other animals, the time of growth and blooming of plants, warming of water of the oceans, rising ocean levels, increasing seasonal temperature, changing composition of the atmosphere, ice melting are all part of another phenomena, the phenomena of global warming.

Neil Case may be reached at neilcase1931@gmail.com.

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