Unfortunately, this structure has been a complete failure both years. There has not been the slightest interest in it; in fact, I have never even seen a Sand Martin in the vicinity of it. I think there are various reasons why it has not been used and I hope that a serious reevaluation will be made by the Land Trust responsible for it. I will be happy to share my ideas and I hope that if anyone reading this account has experience with a structure like this they will offer any critiques or suggestions they may have.
I know that in Europe walls with pipes filled with sand have been used successfully and perhaps that is the answer here. Whether a wall has even been tried in North America I have no idea, but I have been unable to find evidence of it. Location is certainly a factor too.
Butterflies abound in mid summer and there were lots of Northern Pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon) flitting around in the meadows. Fortunately the odd one landed on a desirable piece of vegetation, at least long enough to take a picture.
A male Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) was singing its head off; I am not quite sure why at this late stage in the breeding season, perhaps in defence of territory.
After such a strenuous performance a little preening was in order.
Upon leaving the reserve, as I pulled away in my car, I spotted a large Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) basking in the middle of the gravel road. I stopped the car and got out gingerly and walked around the vehicle to the back so that the sun would be behind me for a picture. Careful as I might have been, I had obviously spooked the snake and it was slithering away quickly into the grass. I succeeded in getting only one picture before it disappeared from view. At least it was no longer in danger of being run over.
After lunch Miriam and I decided to go out and check a few local spots, given the fact that the temperature was a pleasant 24 degrees, in sharp contrast with the hot spell we have been having recently, when air temperatures have been soaring to 35 degrees, and with humidity factored in, into the low forties - not pleasant at all.
A pair of Western Ospreys (Pandion haliaeetus) have nested on a communications tower for the past few years and two birds were on the nest.
I suspect that these two birds are the young of the year, now as big as their parents and ready to fledge at any time.
Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) are common and we were surprised to see only one individual.
In fact birds were very scarce, perhaps resting during the heat of the day. Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) were taking advantage of the thermals and it was rarely that we looked up without seeing a couple soaring overhead.
It was easier to find butterflies, with Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) being the most common species.
Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) was a close second.
A lone Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus), feeding at the edge of a pond which is rapidly drying up, appeared to be benefitting from the lack of competition.
We spotted several Eastern Commas (Polygonia comma) but it took a bit of patience to wait for one to land. In fact, no sooner had one landed than a second one joined it.
Queen Anne's Lace (Daucus carota) is blooming everywhere, and we checked for the caterpillar of the Carrot Seed Moth ((Sitochroa palealis) which uses Queen Anne's Lace as a host plant and we were able to find a few.
The meadows are a riot of wildflowers at present.
Lots of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) was in bloom but try as we might we were unable to locate even one caterpillar of a Monarch (Danaus plexippus), and we have seen only two or three of this enigmatic butterfly this year.
Japanese Beetle (Popilla japonica) is a serious invasive pest and seems to be quite catholic in its taste. I have lost count of the number of native plants on which I have seen it feeding.
A couple of other butterflies rounded out our walk. If I am not mistaken this is our first Spring Azure (Celastrina lucia) of the year and it is already July!
A Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta) was partially hidden in the grasses, but Miriam managed to capture this shot.
We saw several other interesting species of various taxa during our walk, most without photographs and a couple upon which we are awaiting ID confirmation.
It was great to be out and about on a fine summer's day. We will do it many times again before the cool winds of fall nip at our cheeks.