Afton State Park phenology, June 30 to July 6

Minnesota’s many moths get some attention this week.




3 minute read

Afton State Park (Sharon Somero/Flickr)


On Saturday the 1st look in the west after sunset. You will see bright Venus with Mars nearby , and also the star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo. Monday the 3rd is the Full Buck Moon, also known as the Midsummer Moon.


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 Indigo Bunting, the Scarlet Tanager, the Bluejay, and the Brown Thrasher.

Other birds have names that mimic their calls. Some of those you might see and hear at Afton are the Chickadee, Bobolink, Killdeer, and the Black-Billed Cuckoo. The Chickadee’s call is “Chick-a-dee-dee- dee”. European settlers in New England who named the Bobolink thought its call sounded like “Bob O Link, Bob O Link, Spink, Spank, Spink”. The Killdeer says its name with a New England accent: “Kill- deah”. The Rufous-sided Towhee makes a two-toned call that sounds like “towhee”, or sometimes “che-wink”.


National Moth Week is coming! National Moth Week is July 22nd to 30th, and is celebrated worldwide. Visit to send in your moth observations, and mark your calendar for a Moth Week event at Afton on Friday, July 28th.

Why moths? The moths are an ancient and diverse group of insects, with the oldest fossils dating to about 200 million years ago. There are an estimated 160,000 species of moths, many of which have not yet been described. The butterflies diverged from the moths about 100 million years ago, and there are only about 17,500 species of butterflies. Moths are important pollinators; one study showed that moths do more pollinating at night than do day-flying bees! And moths are an important part of the food web, providing food for songbirds, mammals, and other insects.

There are so many types of moths that they’re classified into families, subfamilies, and then tribes. This week’s featured tribe of moth are the Underwings. Their forewings are very detailed but very bland in coloring, while their hindwings, or “underwings” have splashes of color. This allows them to blend in with tree bark when their wings are closed. But if something disturbs them, they can open their wings and flash the bright color underneath to maybe frighten away the intruder. There are many species of Underwings in Minnesota, and they have colorful names. The Underwings in these photos could be “The Penitent”, the “Once-Married”, or the “Semi-Relict”. The Indomitable Melipotis is another species of Underwing Moth.


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 have started 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 are active at dawn and dusk, like deer, 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 Underwing moths. The basswood is the host plant for the Yellow-Banded Underwing, and its forewings look a lot like basswood bark!

Weather observations

Here are some weather observations from past years.

Friday, June 302022: thunderstorm in the early morning hours; 2015: Sunny with a high in the upper 70s
Saturday, July 12020: Sultry start to July, so hot that the tree frogs quieted down
Sunday, July 22012: record high of 99°
Monday, July 32021: Sky hazy from western wildfires. Hot and humid, in 80s
Tuesday, July 42012: record high of 101°
Wednesday, July 52020: hot through mid afternoon, in the 90s, with a thunderstorm knocking the temperature down to the high 70s for a short time
Thursday, July 62021: rain through the day, 3⁄4” in all; 2016: record rainfall of 2.83”

Photo/Image credits

All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:

  • Travis Bonovsky, MN Conservation Volunteer: Bluejay
  • Dean Lokken: Buck deer in velvet, Killdeer, Scarlet Tanager, sleeping fawn Bill Marchel, MN Conservation Volunteer: Brown Thrasher
  • Gary Sater: Indigo Bunting
  • John Schultz: Rufous-sided Towhee
  • Allen Blake Sheldon, MN Conservation Volunteer: Bobolink


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Afton State Park phenology, June 30 to July 6