The sultry days of summer are here. Goldfinches flutter over meadows. Dragonflies patrol the sky. Bullfrogs sound off from ponds. Tomatoes ripen on vines.Crickets sing to the night. Rabbits are everywhere. Thunder rumbles. But it’s chicory (Cichorium intybus) that really proclaims that the heat of summer is on.
Chicory is one of our most abundant midsummer flowers but sadly, it also carries the demeaning title of being classified as a weed. I guess that’s technically correct since it’s a non-native plant that grows profusely along many rural roadsides and other areas that have disturbed, well-drained soils that are bathed in full sunshine. However, their beautiful periwinkle blue flowers on spindly stalks make them an unmistakable sign of summer. It’s abundance in mid-August also reminds me summer is at its peak and the season will soon fade away.
Dragonflies have ruled the skies of planet Earth since before the time of the great dinosaurs. They survived cataclysmic extinction events that eliminated other species and set back human evolution In the blink of an eye, dragonflies can change their flight direction, speed, and elevation with aerodynamic skills that even the most advanced, high-tech drone cannot master. Dragonflies can detect, track, pursue, intercept, catch, and consume flying prey that are plucked from the air. Perhaps this makes them one of nature’s finest tuned killing machines, true masters of aerial predation. Some of these perching “flying dragons” appear to smile, just as this Yellow-legged Meadowhawkseemed to do.
The American Goldfinch is among the most colorful and musical bird you will find in an Oakland County summer. Even a novice birder, such as myself, can identify Goldfinches with ease. Goldfinches are members of the finch family, as their name implies, and are not “wild canaries” as they are sometimes mistakenly called. The male’s eye-catching, gold and black plumage of summer is unmistakable. With a bit of experience, Goldfinches are recognizable from the distance by both their undulating, roller coaster like flight pattern and flight song. They thrive in the rural, thistle-rich fields of our county and are very much at home in the open spaces of parks, trail edge zones, and many of our urban and suburban neighborhoods.
An early morning paddle as the sun climbs over the horizon is the perfect way to start a nature-embracing summer day in the wilder side of Oakland County. The morning mist is magical as water drips off paddles and Great Blue Herons stalk the shallows. For the night owls, paddle out into a magical time of day, a few hours before dusk to catch the moon’s shadow shimmering on the water and beavers slapping their broad tails against the water to warn of your stealthy approach. Regardless of your time preference, Oakland County waters await your canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddle board adventures!
When a large northern water snake(Nerodia sipedon sipedon) swims alongside your canoe and then suddenly looks straight at you on a sultry summer day, one thing is certain; it has your undivided attention. Northern water snakes are one of the most common snakes of Oakland County and are frequently encountered as the days of summer sizzle on and we relax and recreate near ponds, lakes, marshes and rivers. They are often under-appreciated, and at times heavily feared because of their appearance and bold, opportunist behavior. Herpetologists and nature lovers in theknow are enthralled with their behavior and patient observation helps to better understand their ways and coexist peacefully. Sadly, some people “know” they are venomous. They are not!