According to the calendar, the first week of August is the time of mid-summer, halfway between the summer solstice in June and the autumnal equinox of September. Yes, it is summer, with frequent warm and hot temperatures, but there are some indications of the season moving on.
With a sun rising shortly before 6 a.m. and setting near 8:30 p.m., we have about 14.5 hours of daylight, down nearly 90 minutes from the solstice. This is most apparent in mornings, often with cool temperatures and patches of fog.
These early hours are devoid of bird songs due to hot afternoons. But there continues to be much happening with the local flora.
August is sometimes called the time of early harvest. This may be seen in fields and gardens, but the nature watcher observes plenty along roadsides as well.
It is not unusual now to find many kinds of ripe berries during a walk. These include the well-known raspberries, blueberries, juneberries and pin cherries, but also baneberries, dewberries and the white berries of red-osier dogwoods. Maples and hazels tell of more products of the season to come soon.
Besides the berries that abound here, I see plenty of wildflowers. Mid-summer flowers linger, but with each walk, I also note more of the later ones. Fireweeds, primroses, thistles and milkweeds still are flowering; common milkweeds are being joined by cousins of swamp milkweeds and butterflyweeds.
Among these flora are the ever-increasing late summer growths of goldenrods, asters and sunflowers with a scattering of bergamots, bonesets and pearly everlastings. This diverse and colorful bouquet gets my attention, but also that of insects.
We may not appreciate the heat of the day, but the six-legged critters do just fine. And at mid-summer, butterflies abound. With lots of brightness, flowers attract these showy insects, but so does the nectar.
In sunny sites, we can now see about 10 kinds. Best known are the large monarchs. But they are not the only orange ones fluttering among the plants. Sharing the milkweeds with them are the colorful fritillaries and crescents, while an American lady, also in orange attire, basks nearby.
But there are other colors present. Red and white admirals mix with the small tailed-blues, showing both blue and white. More white is seen on the cabbage butterflies. They and the yellow sulphurs seem to be everywhere.
Brown is not expected with these colorful insects, but there are a few kinds of drab butterflies fluttering about, too.
With names like ringlets, pearly-eyes, banded hairstreaks and wood nymphs, they fly out here in with wing colors we expect to see in moths.
The wood nymph is the largest and most common of this group. I see it as a good example of a mid-summer butterfly, arriving in late July. With a wingspan of about 3 inches, their brown color may appear to be almost black.
These butterflies usually sit with wings folded while feeding on nectar or when what is known as lateral basking — not spreading wings like many other butterflies. This pose allows a circular spot, known as an eyespot, to be seen. Wings are dark, but may be light near the eyespot.
Wood nymphs are common at the edge of fields and woods, readily taking nectar from a variety of mid- and late-summer flowers.
With the onset of shorter days, many of these butterflies will fade by late in the month. Now, early in August, is a great time to see them.