Afton State Park phenology, June 16 to June 22

The solstice season means long sunlight and more babies are being born.




3 minute read

Afton State Park Visitor Center (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)


Welcome summer with the solstice on Tuesday, the 21st. “Solstice” means “sun stands still”. From here on earth we have watched the location of the sunrise and sunset swing northward along the horizon since the winter solstice on December 21st. On the 20th the sun will appear to stand still at its northernmost point on the horizon, then begin slowly moving south, reminding us that winter will come again. Forty minutes after sunset on the 21st, look for a three-way conjunction of the crescent Moon, Mars, and Venus.


Robins are having a second brood of babies. Watch for young robins following the parents around and begging for food. They have spotted breasts for camouflage to hide them from predators.

Did you ever wonder how the American Robin got its name? Its red breast reminded European settlers of the European Robin. The European Robin is smaller than our robin, but like our robin it has a red breast. You won’t see a European Robin at Afton, but you might if you travel to the British Isles or the European continent.

Ducks and geese are having second broods, too, so you may see ducklings and goslings in calm water along the river.


The Red-Spotted Purple butterfly is on the wing at this time of year. Believe it or not, the Red- Spotted Purple and the White Admiral are the same species of butterfly. When one species takes on two different appearances the two forms are called “conspecific”. At Afton we often see either the Red-Spotted Purple or an intergrade between the two forms. The intergrade lacks both the blue coloring of the Red-Spotted Purple and the white band of the White Admiral. Fifty miles or so north of us you will see almost all White Admirals and no Red-spotted Purples.

The Skimmers are an extensive family of dragonflies, and like to hunt around ponds and still water. Widow Skimmers, White-faced Meadowhawks, Belted Whitefaces, and Hallowe’en Pennants are all members of the Skimmer family.

The three main body parts of the dragonfly are the head, the thorax, which is where the wings attach, and the abdomen, which we might think of as the tail. Male Widow Skimmers have grayish-white abdomens, and white spots on their wings; the females have yellow abdomens, and lack the white spots on their wings. Male Belted Whitefaces have whitish abdomens; while the females have yellow and black abdomens.


White-tailed deer fawns are born with reddish coats. The adults grow in a reddish coat for the summer and a gray coat for winter. The red color gives better camouflage in summer and the gray in winter. By this time of year the adults have grown in their red coats.


Some flowers to look for this week include Foxglove Beardtongue, Butterflyweed, Leadplant, Yarrow, Giant Blue Hyssop, Wild Columbine, Wild Geranium, Canada Anemone, Long-leaf Bluets, St. John’s Wort, Great St. John’s Wort, and Tall Meadow Rue.

Weather observations

Here are some weather observations from past years.

Friday, June 162020: hot and muggy, with a high about 90°
Saturday, June 172020: muggy and near 90°
Sunday, June 182020: record 1.37 inches rain
Monday, June 192015: partly cloudy, 70s; 2014: record 4.13 inches rain
Tuesday, June 202022: record high of 101°; 2020: dark skies in the morning with a half-hour of rain, then sunny and 70s
Wednesday, June 212016: 60° in the morning and pleasant; 2002: record rainfall 2.95 inches
Thursday, June 222022: pleasant day in the 80s; 2015: stormy morning with 5/8” rain before noon.

Photo credits

All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:

  • Dean Lokken: second Red-spotted Purple, Robin on nest; Robin fledgling, White-tailed doe, White-tailed Fawn
  • John Watson, trail camera: White-tailed doe and fawn