July in Iowa


Yum!

Hot!

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.

Yellowthroat

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.”

Towhee

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.

Milk-vetch

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.

SLAP!

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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