Afton State Park phenology, June 14 to June 20

The summer solstice means long days and lots of wildlife.

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Afton State Park (Sharon Mollerus/Flickr)

Astronomy

Welcome summer with the solstice on Thursday, the 20th. “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. The planet Jupiter was visible in the evening until early April, and has been out of sight to us since then. But beginning on the 15th we’ll be able to see it again, now due east in the very early morning before sunrise.

Birds

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.

Near the water, look for Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Great Egrets, and Green Herons. Great Blue Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons spend the winter on the coasts and waterways of the southeastern U.S. and the Caribbean. Great Egrets may go as far south as southern Central America. Some Green Herons go to the southeastern U.S., some to the Caribbean, and some as far as northern South America.

Insects

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, Wandering Gliders, Belted Whitefaces, and Dot-tailed Whiteface 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. And the Dot-tailed Whiteface has a white face, and a dot on its tail (really its abdomen).

Mammals

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.

Plants

Some flowers to look for this week include Foxglove Beardtongue, Butterfly weed, 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 142022: hot and muggy, in the mid-90s; 2011: sunny early, with a thunderstorm from late afternoon into early evening
Saturday, June 152018: record high of 95°
Sunday, June 162020: hot and muggy, with a high about 90°
Monday, June 172020: muggy and near 90°
Tuesday, June 182020: record 1.37 inches rain
Wednesday, June 192015: partly cloudy, 70s; 2014: record 4.13 inches rain
Thursday, June 202022: record high of 101°; 2020: dark skies in the morning with a half-hour of rain, then sunny and 70s

Photo credits:

All photos copyright Nina Manzi, except:

  • Sherri Holliday-Sklar: Great Blue Heron
  • Dean Lokken: Great Egret, second Red-spotted Purple, Robin on nest; Robin fledgling, White-tailed
  • doe, White-tailed Fawn
  • Gary Sater: Green Heron
  • Ola Skari: European Robin
  • John Watson, trail camera: White-tailed doe and fawn

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One response to “Afton State Park phenology, June 14 to June 20”

  1. Bonnie Avatar
    Bonnie

    Thank you so much! I love the phenology!!

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