Reflections on an Endless Summer

Yellow-breasted Chat on American beautyberry

By Jaya Ramanathan.

Summer has been relentless, with 100+F temperatures, and heat persisting until late evening. So I was delighted to spot early fall migrants, a harbinger for lower temperatures, and new sights. A perfect time to reflect on this endless summer and anticipate new beginnings.

Birds share baths.

Our bird baths are a big hit this summer. We moved our ramshackle brick bath under an oak’s shade. Birds, Green Anole, and squirrels enthusiastically welcome this change. Red-bellied Woodpecker, slides down an oak tree, clings to its trunk, and cranes its neck to sip, under Blue Jay’s watchful eyes. Birds happily share, three White-winged Doves once, two along with Blue Jay another time. Immature Red-bellied Woodpecker and Blue Jay sip together. Another bird hesitates, going up and down the oak trunk, before summoning courage to dip, gingerly clinging onto the bath’s edge. Soon I see it confidently enjoying splashy baths. Carolina Wren continues exploring bath nooks for bugs. Birds share our copper bath too, four White-Winged Doves once. Lesser Goldfinch visits, adding a dash of color.

Immature Black-crested Titmouse is curious about House Finch

Juvenile birds grow independent as summer progresses, visiting without parent supervision. Young Northern Cardinal teaches me it has a gray bill. Little Black-crested Titmouse curiously observes House Finch discarding seed husks right from its beak and Red-bellied Woodpecker pecking an oak trunk. Tiny House Finch makes itself at home, grooming on the patio oak, frequenting the seed feeder, and sipping bravely at the copper bath, unfazed by White-winged Dove. Immature Red-bellied Woodpecker lightly pokes a Blue Jay, twice at the brick bath, prompting it to share. Blue Jay does not protest, makes room, drinks, and leaves, after which the courageous little one sips.

A female Summer Tanager

Summer Surprises continue with the first sights of Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers together, Bronzed Cowbird, and Summer Tanager. Another Raptor Moment ensues when three Red-shouldered Hawks visit, two perch on wire for a while, with one calling — a rare sight, as they typically visit alone.

Black-chinned Hummingbirds feed at Turk’s Cap and Plumbago

Native plants show resilience to the heat. Butterflies frequent Plumbagos while Hummingbirds give it a try. Both compete at Lantanas and Desert Honeysuckle. Birds indeed bridge borders, as Hummingbirds sip from Turk’s Cap in our backyard and our neighbor’s. Autumn Sage, a spring favorite of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, stops blooming in summer, but restarts in time for Fall migration, as does Vitex. Yellow-breasted Chat visits our purple American beautyberry. Rabbits munch on a few green blades of our otherwise dry backyard grass.

Blue Jay and Northern Cardinal molt

In this shoulder season, Northern Cardinals and Blue Jay appear bald. Our patio oak leaves frame the varied sights: Mississippi Kite high in the sky – they arrive in spring, stay through summer, and will soon leave for their South American wintering habitat; Ruby-throated Hummingbirds grasp tiny branches – we now see more of them as fall migrants pass through; and Red-bellied Woodpeckers on the electric pole – they are year-round residents.

Patio Oak leaves frame a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Well settled Black-chinned Hummingbirds dwindle when skirmishing Rubys dominate. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Swainson’s and Broad-winged Hawks pass through. I spot a Monarch butterfly sip from our Lantana. Yellow Warbler plays peekaboo. They all signal that this endless summer will end after all.

Broad-winged Hawk

Photos courtesy of Jaya Ramanathan.