The Early Days of Summer

June 25th, 10:30 am.

Today does not seem as hot as the two days prior. The forecast said it would get to be 88 degrees and for me, as long as the temperature is below 90 it feels perfect. I am walking a loop around Outlet Creek and Mill Creek, around a large area of grassland. The Ash trees along the fence line offer a respite from the sunny open pastures. Their intense green color and lush appearance are soothing to my eyes. I head for the green line of Outlet Creek. The sounds of Swainson’s Thrushes and Yellow-Breasted Chats reach me from a distance. Both appear to be competing for the loudest bird award today.

On the edge of the road, in the pasture, there are many summer flowers blooming. A bright pink diminutive flower is one of the early summer bloomers, the Common Centaury, Zeltnera trichantia. This is a plant, belonging to the Gentian family, that is found in many habitats around the Willits area. The bright pink star-shaped flowers are everywhere in the fields growing with many non-native flowers such as Chicory, Cichoriium intybus, a bright blue aster-like flower whose seeds are popular with all species of Goldfinches, and Saint John’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum, a very prolific herb with bright orange-yellow flowers and red spots.  There are, of course, other non-native flowers that bloom at this time that I will cover in other blogs.

Now my attention turns to the Outlet Creek riparian corridor from which there are loud raucous sounds emanating. As I look with my binoculars I see it is a group of Brewer’s blackbirds, Euphagus cyanocephalus, flying up from the ground to the lush willows along the creek. There are male and female birds and what looks like some young fledglings. One of the male adult birds has a large green insect in its mouth ready to feed the hungry youngsters. Its’ bright yellow eye is outstanding as it looks at me. At first, I think it is a dragonfly, but once I get a closer look I am not sure what it is! I move away to allow them to finish feeding their young.

As I walk along I hear the familiar high whistle of a small flock of Cedar Waxwings, Bombycilla cedrorum, and see them land on a branch over the creek. They are “flycatching”, a way of flitting up with their mouths open catching insects as they fly. These birds have delicate fine feathers that appear to be painted on their bodies. Their beauty always astounds me, and I am enthralled watching them flitting about. It is interesting how many birds do this to feed their young. This time of the year there is so many insects flying, hatching from the waters of the creek, which means there is plenty of food for all. As I turn to leave this cool shady spot, I hear another familiar call, the Chicago, Chicago, of the California Quail,  Callipepla, californica,  sitting in the willows.  

The day is heating up with cicadas, crickets, and other insects calling in full force. These are some of the sounds of summer and I delight in the long days and warm nights out under the stars.

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