Jeff Green | Aug 18, 2005
Feature article, August 18, 2005
Feature article August 18, 2005LAND O' LAKES NewsWeb Home
Contact UsNature Reflections - Summer Doldrums
The long hot days of summer can be ideal for creatures that like the heat, that need that time to be born, grow, mate, and then hibernate, migrate or die.
Snakes in particular need summer heat to warm their bodies, and then when autumn approaches they seek the protection of underground holes or caves in which to spend the winter in safety. Woe to those whose underground shelter is not deep enough to escape the killing frosts when the snow does not blanket the ground with insulation. I think that is what happened to many of the snakes around my home a few winters ago - the snow did not come early enough, but the icy cold did - I have seen very few snakes this summer.
For frogs, at least those that survive the predation of River Otters, Minks, other frogs, snakes, and birds like the Great Blue Heron, the summer is the time to celebrate a plentiful supply of bugs and flies, so a thick lily pad becomes a patio diner for these creatures. One quick leap will take them into the cool water and out of reach of many predators, though the River Otter that has been visiting my pond twice this summer probably has had a good feed.
Summer brings berries, fruits and nuts - unless the weather has been too wet during the flowering season, or too dry for the fruit and berries to allow proper development. This is the time those animals that thrive on such are busy putting on layers of fat. Black Bears in particular need to find a good supply of berries, and later nuts such as Beech to gain the fat and protein they need before denning up. Of course, they also like the honey the bees have been producing from the supplies carried home to the hives from the summer flowers.
Other animals also cherish the time of summer - a time for young to be born and fed, and taught how to survive on their own before being banished from the family circle. Young chipmunks need to find a territory of their own, or take over an abandoned territory where they will develop an subterranean domain with sleeping area and storehouses which need to be filled with nuts and seeds. Not true hibernators, they will stir during the winter and feed on the supply they have garnered over the summer and early fall.
The many insects of summer have been active - feeding, growing, mating - and have become a mainstay of the diets of many birds as well as the frogs, and other animals. As the days of summer draw to a close they will be busy laying eggs, or in a few cases, like the Monarch or Painted Lady butterflies, preparing for migration to warmer climes. Many insects lay a large supply of eggs, most of which become a banquet for predators, but always enough to produce a new generation of the creatures next spring, as often the adult insects die in the autumn and the species overwinter only as eggs.
For me the summer heat is a time to celebrate air conditioning! I prefer the coolness of spring or fall, or the icy grip of winter when I can put on an extra sweater to keep warm, but find the summer doldrums not particularly enjoyable - the weeds take over my garden until the heat wave abates and the Deer Flies disappear.