July in Iowa



That’s how lots of Iowans describe our Julys.

And it’s often hard to dispute that description.

But I prefer another adjective: Colorful!

It’s not just the green of our endless corn and soybean fields, nor the hazy blue of our skies.

Black-eyed Susan

Look again for the rich gold and dark brown of Black-eyed Susan, or the pinkish-purple of wild bergamot, or the splashes of lemon-yellow in a flock of goldfinches.

Or, one of my favorites, the raspberry-red of – what else? – red raspberries!

Pondering the predictions of heat indices topping 100, I arose at sunrise and headed for the raspberry patch. With the temperature already at 75 and climbing, I figured I’d better take advantage of the “cool” morning.

Clusters of plump berries hung temptingly in a jungle of green leaves. I couldn’t resist a pre-breakfast treat before starting to fill my bucket.


A common yellowthroat serenaded me from the boxelder tree: witchety-witchety-witchety.

Down in the shade of the wooded valley, a yellow-billed cuckoo cooed it’s mournful, throaty, “kowp-kowp-kowp.”

Wrens hatching

A house wren scolded from the garden fence, ordering me to stay away from her box of newly hatched young.

Scruffy tanager

A very hesitant scarlet tanager chir-rupped from the woodland.  Perhaps the usually resplendent, red-and-black male did not want to draw attention to his molting coat, which for a few weeks will be blemished with spots of yellow or white.

A towhee shortened his exuberant DRINK-YOUR-TEA” to a subdued “your-tea.”


Many of the other spring birds were strangely quiet after the peak of the breeding season. The almost tireless rose-breasted grosbeaks apparently were too busy feeding their youngsters to take time to sing. The robins, cardinals, and bluebirds also were preoccupied with care of their offspring.


But the heat of the morning sun brought with it another sound: the buzz of insects. Bumblebees foraged in the pale-yellow spikes of milk-vetch. Countless little pollinators darted from flower to flower in the clumps of black-eyed Susans.


And pesky mosquitoes stirred from the raspberry thicket to hum in my ear or probe my forearm for a blood meal.

Catbird bath

Fast forward to late afternoon, when – yes – the heat index was off the charts. But that brought a procession of birds to the birdbath: bluebirds, orioles, towhee, goldfinches, blue jays, cardinals, indigo bunting, yellowthroat, and even the normally shy catbird.

It seems the heat brought with it a splash of color . . .

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