Taking the Bite Out of the Dog Days


It’s hard to believe we’ve already turned the corner on another summer at Lake James State Park. With plenty of hot, sticky days remaining in the forecast, it’s also hard to believe Nature is already preparing for autumn. August is a time for babies. Those spotted fawns that had remained hidden since they were born back in late May are starting to follow their mothers out into the open. Wild turkey hens have had a good nesting season at the park. Just a few weeks ago there were 19 chicken-sized poults being escorted by three adult hens. The park road through Paddy’s Creek Area remains a fantastic place to see white-tailed deer and wild turkeys, especially if you come in the early morning or as the sun goes down.

Our nesting Eastern bluebirds have had another great year, thanks in large part to the dozen or so birdhouses, erected by Ranger Earl Weaver, on the Paddy’s Creek Area road shoulders. Some of the boxes were used as many as three times during the course of the spring and summer. That equates to a lot of fledgling bluebirds flying around. Plans are in the works to add more boxes before next year’s nesting season begins. Curiously, there has been a flock of more than 50 purple martins hanging around the east side of the swim beach for the better part of a month. They are mostly young birds, fledged somewhere nearby and preparing for their first migration to winter in South America.

The songbirds that nested in the forest along the lake shore are forming up into mixed feeding flocks as they also fuel up for the southern migration. These diverse groupings of colorful warblers, vireos, thrushes and others move together through the woods, keeping close company to better find sources of food and to avoid predators.

The resident Canada geese aren’t having any trouble finding food, especially at the Paddy’s Creek Area swim beach. Some well-intentioned park visitors have a hard time saying no to these tenacious birds, especially the fuzzy goslings, but we encourage everyone to refrain from feeding the geese for sanitary reasons.

Several species of goldenrod and aster are starting to bloom. These and other flowering plants will serve as critical food supplies for the fall migration of monarch butterflies. Monarchs aren’t the only insects that migrate. August is the time to start seeing southbound dragonflies like green darners.

The summer swelter is still upon us here in the Catawba River Basin, but what better way to beat the heat than an early morning nature hike on one of the park’s many trails. See you out there.

Nature NotesLeslie Young