Look for the first Canada geese to fly again.
Adults have been flightless since about mid-June or a little later while their wing feathers molt. The young that hatched this spring are also testing their new flight feathers, so whole family groups can be seen in the air. Mallards and other ducks also start flying again after they molt.
Juvenile purple swallows make their first flights around this time. A brood of young are raised each summer by martins here in the Upper Midwest. After the nesting season ends each summer, martens congregate in staging groups before leaving the area. Early swallow migration peaks in the second half of August in Minnesota. The birds leave for their winter home in Brazil. There they feed on insects in the air, as usual, but they do not nest. Their return instincts are strong and a good portion will return to the same Minnesota nesting grounds in the spring of 2023.
On warm afternoons, it’s not uncommon to see American Robins or other birds perched quietly in the shade with their beaks open and panting. Birds don’t have sweat glands, so this is their way of getting rid of excess body heat.
Deer flies have peaked and should be gone, or nearly gone, by the end of July. For now, they continue to bother people, dogs and a few wild animals. Deer head to the lakes to get relief from these pests.
A few other observations:
- On dewy mornings, orb spider webs are showy in the sunlight.
- In southern Minnesota, soybean fields are blooming, oats and wheat are ripening, and much of the field corn is pollinating. We see the tassels on top of the plants holding the pollen, and the bristles a few feet below the stem to receive the pollen grains. The most interesting part of this pollination process to me is that there is a silk for every grain of corn produced on an ear. On a well-developed ear of corn, there are 750 to 1000 potential kernels arranged in an even number of rows around the ear.
- Many of us look forward to when the first locally grown sweet corn becomes available. Mike and Colleen Klingelhutz are growers in the Waconia area and shared their first meal of sweet corn with their family on July 15 and began selling corn at their booth in Colony Plaza last weekend.
- In northern Minnesota, Chipping Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows and Red-breasted Nuthatches are busy feeding their young.
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness campers hunt for ripe blueberries.
Jim Gilbert has taught and worked as a naturalist for over 50 years.