A red-tailed hawk flew overhead low enough that I could see the prey item it carried was a vole. The vole is the “potato chip of the prairie” — a popular food for many animals.
Birdsong has diminished. It begins to do so in mid-July each year. There is little need for singing. I heard the angry calls of blue jays and crows. The presence of a raptor irritated them. I heard the shrill and excited “killy, killy, killy” call of an American kestrel. I looked up to see the tiny falcon kiting. Suddenly, a Cooper’s hawk was rousted from its hiding place. The kestrel dove and attacked the larger raptor.
Large insects flew short distances ahead of me before landing on the ground. They were Carolina locusts, a kind of grasshopper, that make crackling sounds in flight. This is called a crepitation. Butterflies and dragonflies were rainbows on wings. Dragonflies and damselflies, fierce predators, feed upon mosquitoes, deer flies, black flies and other flying insects. Damselflies are more slender than dragonflies. At rest, damselflies fold their wings over their bodies, while dragonfly wings are held horizontally.
“How can I get rid of gnats in the house?” My wife adds three drops of dish soap to a bowl of vinegar and leaves it uncovered to lessen the number of fruit flies and gnats.
“Is the nighthawk a hawk?” The common nighthawk is a member of the taxonomic order, Caprimulgiformes (goatsuckers). These birds were named goatsuckers for the mistaken belief that they sucked milk from goats. Common nighthawks are crepuscular, hunting on the wing at dawn and dusk, opening beaks to reveal cavernous mouths that take flying insects from the air. It’s called a nighthawk because of the way it hawks insects. The “night” part of their name isn’t truly descriptive as they don’t regularly forage at night, but I see them hunting on moonlit nights. They occasionally forage during the day during stormy weather.
Things to look for
1. American goldfinches begin nesting. They wait until thistles and other plants go to seed. You should start seeing the baby goldfinches in August.
2. Ragweed sheds pollen and white snakeroot blooms.
3. Snowy tree crickets make sleigh bell-like sounds in evenings. They are known as nature’s ’thermometer because the rate of their chirping correlates with the temperature. The formula is to count the number of chirps in 13 seconds and add 40 to find the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Common grackles and red-winged blackbirds form into large flocks.
5. Purple martins begin a migration to South America.
Al Batt is a syndicated columnist. For questions or comments about this article, contact Al at firstname.lastname@example.org.