Afton State Park Phenology, July 2 to July 8

Birds broods, butterflies and dragonflies on the wing, fawns in the forests, trees bloom, and the weather gets hot.




5 minute read

Afton State Park (Chris/Flickr)

Note: Nina Manzi is a long-time volunteer at Afton State Park who has long recorded and shared seasonal observations at the visitor’s center. Due to COVID closures, St. Croix 360 is publishing her updates when possible. Thank you, Nina!

“Phenology is nature’s calendar—when cherry trees bloom, when a robin builds its nest and when leaves turn color in the fall.

“Phenology is a key component of life on earth. Many birds time their nesting so that eggs hatch when insects are available to feed nestlings. Likewise, insect emergence is often synchronized with leaf out in host plants.”

Why Phenology? USA National Phenology Network


On Monday the 5th the earth reaches its farthest point from the sun, called  “aphelion”. You probably won’t be able to notice, but the sun will be seven percent dimmer  when it’s directly overhead than it was in January!  


Many birds, including American robins, are raising second broods of young ones. Newly  hatched robins are dependent on their parents for food. Watch for adult birds flying back and  forth and listen for nestlings crying out to be fed when the parents return to the nest. Young  birds that have “fledged” or left the nest, have a speckled pattern on their breasts for better  camouflage , not the solid orange-red color of adult birds. 

Many birds have the names of colors as part of their name. Some “color” birds you might see in  the woods at this time of year include the Gray Catbird, the Scarlet Tanager, the Indigo Bunting,  and the Brown Thrasher. 


Two species of “lady” butterflies are on the wing at Afton in the summertime: the  Painted Lady and the American Lady. Both are brushfoot butterflies. They have six legs but the  two front legs are very short and brushy so you will see them perched on four legs. Monarchs  are also brushfoots. The Painted Lady is more common at Afton. It has four eyespots on its  hindwing. The American Lady has only two eyespots.

Many dragonfiles and damselflies are on the wing. Dragonflies rest with their wings held open.  Damselflies rest with their wings together. Many species of odonata, which includes the  dragons and the damsels, have descriptive names. The 12-spotted skimmer has 12 black spots,  the dot-tailed whiteface has a small white dot on its tail and a white face, the ebony jewelwing,  particularly the male of the species, has iridiscent black wings, and the entire genus of bluet damselflies are . . . blue! 


Deer have changed from their winter gray coats to summer red. Young fawns are  becoming more independent, though they still have their spotted coats. Bucks may have begun  to grow antlers. Growing antlers are said to be “in velvet” due to the fuzzy coating on the  antlers as they grow. Look for deer at dawn and dusk. Animals that, like deer, are active at  dawn and dusk are called “crepuscular”.


Basswood trees, also called lindens, are in bloom and covered with hundreds of fragrant  white blossoms. The leaves of the basswood are large and somewhat heart-shaped, and the  bark is furrowed. And while you’re admiring the many basswoods in the forest at Afton, keep a  lookout for yellow-banded underwing moths. The basswood is the host plant for this species,  and its forewings look a lot like basswood bark! 

Weather observations 

Here are some weather observations for this week from past years 

Friday, July 22012: record high of 99°
Saturday, July 32010: 70s in the morning, and muggy
Sunday, July 42012: record high of 101°
Monday, July 52020: 90s in mid-afternoon, temporarily dropping into 70s after a passing thunderstorm
Tuesday, July 62016: record rainfall of 2.83 inches
Wednesday, July 72013: near 80° in the morning, rising into 90s
Thursday, July 82020: heat advisory, with a high in the low 90s.

Photo/Image credits

All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except: 

  • Dudley Edmundson, MN Conservation Volunteer: Indigo Bunting 
  • Keith Henjum: Robin feeding nestlings 
  • Dean Lokken: Buck deer in velvet, Scarlet Tanager, sleeping fawn 
  • Bill Marchel, MN Conservation Volunteer: Brown Thrasher, Gray Catbird 


One response to “Afton State Park Phenology, July 2 to July 8”

  1. donna augustine-nikpai Avatar
    donna augustine-nikpai

    Loved the article but would like to note in the robin collage the first nestling has been attacked by parasitic ticks. It looks in distress and will probably die from the infestation. As people love to support wildlife maybe you could address safe practices to diminish disease and parasite transmission at feeders and watering stations. It could benefit wildlife and help us to understand how we can support nature. Again really loved you article. I hope you will write more!


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Afton State Park Phenology, July 2 to July 8