Afton State Park Phenology, August 4 to August 10

Blue birds, bull snakes, butterflies, and grasshoppers galore.

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St. Croix River bottom, Afton State Park (Brett Whaley/Flickr)

Astronomy

On Tuesday August 8th get up before sunrise to look for the planet Jupiter near the Moon.

Birds

Ruby-throated Hummingbirds like to nectar on red flowers and also pale purple bergamot. If you’re wearing a red shirt they may approach you to see if you are a flower! Hummingbirds are the smallest bird in Minnesota; adults weigh just over half an ounce. It would take more than 150 birds to weigh one pound. Although hummingbirds are small, they are very fierce; the Aztecs believed that warriors who died in battle would be reincarnated as hummingbirds.

Other birds you may see at Afton in the summertime but not winter are the Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebird, and Indigo Bunting.

Brown Thrashers nest in shrubby areas on the edges of woods; you’re most likely to encounter one searching through leaf litter for something to eat. They are said to sing over a thousand different song types and imitate other birds, like their relative the Mockingbird.

You may spot bluebirds using any of the many bluebird houses throughout the park. Bluebirds often have more than one brood per season. The young from the first brood leave the parents and go off on their own after fledging, but the young of the second brood may stay with the parents over the winter.

Indigo Buntings are the only all-blue bird around, making them easy to identify. They’re sometimes called “Blue Canaries” because of their cheerful whistling songs.

Amphibians and reptiles

Sunny days are a good time to watch for turtles and snakes basking. Reptiles are “ectotherms”; they don’t generate as much internal heat as do mammals, which is why they are active in the summer and not in the winter. The warmth of the sun also helps turtles digest their food. If you see them basking on a log or rock please watch them quietly from a distance.

Insects

Some of the many species of butterflies on the wing at Afton include the Tiger Swallowtail, the Painted Lady, the Peck’s Skipper, and of course the Monarch, our state butterfly!

Look for grasshoppers jumping and flying short distances. They come in many colors! The Katydid is also a grasshopper, and is sometimes called the Long-Horned Grasshopper. Ever wonder why you start seeing grasshoppers leaping and flying in July and August, and not earlier? Grasshoppers hatch from eggs in the springtime, and as they grow they molt their exoskeletons, and a new soft one underneath hardens. Each successive version of the grasshopper is called an “instar”. Grasshoppers have wings only after the last time they molt; that is why you see grasshoppers flying short distances in the late summer and fall, but not in the early summer.

Plants

The parade of wildflowers continues! Look for Rough Blazing Stars, Prairie Onions, both Yellow and Purple Coneflowers, Cardinal Flowers, Butterflyweed, and Common and Swamp Milkweed. Butterflyweed, Common Milkweed, and Swamp Milkweed are all members of the genus “Asclepias”, which is named after the Greek god of medicine, Asklepios. People used milkweed in the past to treat lung diseases and to remove warts.

Weather observations

Here are some weather observations from past years.

Friday, August 42014: 1⁄2” of rain overnight
Saturday, August 52015: sunny and pleasant, temperature in the 80s
Sunday, August 62020: partly sunny, 70s; 2001: Record high of 99°
Monday, August 72022: rain in the evening; 2015: 1⁄2 inch rain; 2001: Record high of 98°
Tuesday, August 82022: 50s in the morning, rising into the70s; 2020: skies dark through day but only a few sprinkles; 2014: high in low 80s; 1894, 1914, 2010: Record high of 96°
Wednesday, August 92020 thunderstorms off and on through day; 1947, 2010: Record high of 95°
Thursday, August 102022: 80s and sunny; 2020: 3/8” rain overnight; 2010: Record rainfall of 2.47 inches

Photo/Image credits

All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:

  • Jim Brandenburg, MN Conservation Volunteer: Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  • Dean Lokken: Painted Turtle
  • Bill Marchel, MN Conservation Volunteer: Brown Thrasher
  • Gary Sater: Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting
  • Jane Williams-Petersen: Katydid

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One response to “Afton State Park Phenology, August 4 to August 10”

  1. Val Avatar
    Val

    Thanks for the flora and fauna lists. Time for a road trip…

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Afton State Park Phenology, August 4 to August 10