It’s been hot and steamy. Typical summer days and nights in America’s Heartland. It reached 100°F during the past week. Afternoon and evening storms roll in with Thor (the Old Norse god of thunder and lightning – not the guy in the movie) putting on shows of his strength.
After last night’s rain, thunder and lightning, it’s hot and humid as it was predicted to be (90°F). I put on a long-sleeved blouse, birder’s vest, cargo pants and knee-high rubber boots. And don’t forget the wide-brimmed hat and sun glasses. A final finish with powerful sun-screen and tick/mosquito repellant, I begin my journey along the bluebird trail in discomfort wading in wet, waist-high prairie plants. Usually wearing sturdy trail shoes, I opt for boots because the low spots off the main trail are often filled with rain water. Rain water and mosquitoes, however, are not as big a problem as anticipated. The prairie plants dry and so does my clothing.
It’s summer on the bird nest box monitor circuit and things are beginning to slow. There is still a lot of activity, but it’s different. Dragonflies and damselflies delight. Cicadas hum. Summer wildflowers bloom. Some spring flowers have turned into small green berries. Tiny acorns are visible on the oak trees.
Most of the bird nests are now empty of their fledglings and I remove the used nests from their boxes. Except, that is, for the dirty old Tree Swallow nest in the box with the wasps. Those critters are active and mean looking. I’ll take a pass on that one for now.
I still have three active Eastern Bluebird nests. The east route has a nest with 5 bluebird eggs. The parents are not around. They must be out feeding. There are two active bluebird nests on the north route. One has 4 bluebird eggs and a male parent flys over to stand guard. A second has three darling bluebird babies and a yet-to-hatch egg. This bluebird pair loudly scolds and the male even strafes me several times. God willing and the creek don’t rise, there’ll be more baby bluebirds at my next visit.
A walker on the trail asks if I work for the forest preserve district. He has questions about snakes. Snakes? I don’t do snakes. I explain my volunteer work, briefly. Moving on, I smile to the now-familiar bearded young man with his iPod and bright green shirt walking his dog. A pretty young woman wearing sunglasses and a Texas Longhorns cap jogs past. I surprise an older couple walking by as I emerge from behind some trees to rejoin the trail after monitoring a nest box. Not many bikers out today.
Along the trail, I’m delighted by a good view of a mother Red-bellied Woodpecker feeding one of her youngsters. A Baltimore Oriole is splendid in his blazing orange plumage. The Phoebe pretends to not see me. Yellow Warblers skip through branches of a small tree hunting insects. The Song Sparrow sings to me. Red-tailed Hawks ride high on the thermals. Red-winged blackbirds abound. Northern Cardinals fly across my path.
Arriving home, I immediately put aside the hot rubber boots, shower off, change into clean, cool summer attire and become a new woman.
Ah-h-h-h-h-h. I think I’ll relax on the deck and wait for my hummingbirds.