The last days of summer

Days are getting shorter. Just a month ago, at 7:00 in the evening the setting sun would still be above the tops of the tall pine trees that spread across the western horizon prospect from my backyard. Today, by 7:00 the sun will be well behind those trees, just about down to their bases. 

Moreover, the sun has started on its long trek to the south for winter. After reaching its northernmost point in the sky several weeks ago, the sun is now several degrees farther south, looking from our planetary perspective. And so the seasons change.

There's only a month left in this season, but it is likely the most miserable month for us. The heat and humidity now are just about unbearable for outdoor activities of any extended period. And the plants which must stand out there all day under the broiling sun are looking wilted and tattered, much the worse for wear. A few leaves are already dropping, harbinger of the deluge to come.

The bottom line for gardeners is that it is almost impossible to keep the garden looking good at this time of year and some of us just surrender and wait for the cooler days of fall. The main attraction in the garden these days is the wildlife but even they are rather quiet. Except for the cicadas, of course.

Most of the backyard birds are still molting and they tend to be fairly silent during this period, almost as if they are embarrassed to call attention to their disheveled appearance. Silent though they are, there are plenty of them around, both adults and juveniles.

Just this week, I've seen a pair of robins escorting a couple fledglings around. There's been a whole tribe of wrens, including four or five fledglings, scouring the shrubbery for bugs. 

A young Carolina Wren looking for a snack in a 'Pride of Barbados' shrub.

And the yard is virtually overrun by cardinals. In the late afternoon when the cardinals come to the backyard feeders, one can see twenty or more of the beautiful birds of all ages as they gather for their late day snack.

A molting male Northern Cardinal eyes a feeder containing sunflower seed.

I can't say how many hummingbirds are in the yard these days. They zip around so fast that I can't count them, but I know there are at least three.

Most of the hummers that I am seeing now are Ruby-throated males like this one sitting just outside my office window.

I see posts on other birding blogs of hummingbird feeders that are being visited by large numbers of the little birds, and I wonder, how do they do that? Maybe my birds are just especially intolerant, but they will not share. If another bird comes around while one is feeding, the chase is on. They do not peaceably feed together. Admittedly, the chases are very entertaining, but it would be nice if they would all sit down for a meal together. At least then I could count them!

There are also plenty of butterflies in the garden in these last days of summer.

The little yellow Sulphur butterflies are ubiquitous in the garden at this time of year.

Milkweed is not just for Monarchs and Queens; Pipevine Swallowtails like it, too.

Gulf Fritillaries are very active at this time of year and they love these flame acanthus blossoms.

A Giant Swallowtail nectars on milkweed.

I've mentioned here before that the numbers of green anoles in my backyard are down this summer compared to previous years. It's likely that the cold snaps last winter reduced their numbers. Last summer they seemed to be everywhere, but this year I can sometimes walk through the garden without seeing a single one.

There is one little guy that I can count on seeing regularly though. He's my patio buddy.

Just about any day that I sit on my patio I'll see him there, checking the pavers for insects.

And, of course, displaying his impressive throat pouch for all to see.

He's looking around to see if anyone noticed his display.

The plants in the backyard are looking rather sad as summer winds down, but the critters are always entertaining.



  1. It's feeling like autumn (fall) already in the UK, temperatures have dropped and the leaves are starting to colour up. We could do with some of your heat!
    The cardinals are beautiful birds and I do love the hummers.

    1. And we could do with some of your cool! We are never satisfied, are we? The birds are truly among my favorite "flowers" in my garden and one of the main reasons that I do garden.

  2. Very good post. I'm not seeing as many green anoles but 5-lined skinks abound and green tree frogs.

    I'm seeing butterflies but I've lost the will to go out in the warm blanket of heat and humidity and hang around for them to pose.

    Wildflowers are slower this year.

    1. I'm noticing lots of skinks and tree frogs as well, but they are not too cooperative about posing for me.

      This heat really does have a way of zapping one's initiative and will to get things done. I've cut back to just the bare essentials of gardening.


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