July 21 - 31
Racine has 14 hours and 31 minutes of daylight and Superior has 14 hours and 54 minutes of daylight at the end of the period. Southern Wisconsin loses 22 minutes of daylight and northern Wisconsin has 26 minutes less than the previous period. Late-July is the warmest part of the year in western and northern Wisconsin. Average high temperatures reach their peak in LaCrosse on July 25 at 85 degrees and Superior’s highest average high temperature is July 30 at 78 degrees.
Blue moon: Recently, the name Blue Moon has been associated with the second of two full moons in a single calendar month. The older definition of Blue Moon is the third of four full moons in a single season. Sometimes the moon is actually blue-colored moon. The term once in a blue moon is associated with something rare and now it is less rare.
On July 31, 2015, the full moon makes its second appearance in July, which meets one of the blue moon definitions. However, this full moon is one of only three falling in the summer season and does not meet the older definition of blue moon. One season – winter, spring, fall, summer – typically has three full moons. If a season has four full moons, then the third full moon may be called a Blue Moon. The last seasonal blue moon occurred on August 20-21, 2013, and the next one will occur on May 21, 2016.
Shorebird migrants: Shorebirds can be a notoriously difficult or an incredibly easy identification exercise depending on the species. Complications that come into play are plumage differences between the sexes, stage of molt, differences between juvenile plumage and worn adult plumage, and the normal occurrence - great distance to the bird, especially small sandpipers. Many shorebirds have very distinctive movement patterns. Three species that seemed to generate the most confusion regarding movements as discerned from comments by birders.
Greater Yellowlegs – Why any confusion with this species? The species is relative easy to identify and relatively easy to find. Comments gleaned from birders seemed to indicate confusion over why there are so many Lesser Yellowlegs and so few Greater Yellowlegs.
First and foremost, populations of Lesser Yellowlegs are estimated to be nearly five times as many – 500,000 compared to 100,000 – as Greater Yellowlegs. Two other factors also play a role. Greater Yellowlegs has a very wide and diffuse migration pattern. The population movement covers the entire breadth of North American, whereas Lesser Yellowlegs is more concentrated in the center of the continent. The other factor is the social nature of the species. Greater Yellowlegs seldom form large flocks in migration. Even when numbers are found they are loosely associated. The largest numbers usually recorded are in the mid-100s and those are most likely tallied after a Peregrine Falcon or Northern Harrier has put a little fear into them encouraging them to fly around.
Greater Yellowlegs have historic breeding records from Minnesota, Iowa, and northern Illinois. They arrive early on the breeding grounds and leave early for fall migration. Females leave first with unmated females arriving in early July followed by post breeding females in mid-July. A few weeks later the males arrive on the migration flats. Juveniles have a long peek arriving in mid-August and lingering through early October.
Greater Yellowlegs is a species with an unknown population status. The species is rated as a species of high concern in the Mississippi River flyway. Projecting the proportion of the migration resource found in the state and knowing Greater Yellowlegs migrates in a broad front, as many as 8 to 10% of the North American population may move through Wisconsin. With a North American estimate of 100,000 birds, as many as, 10,000 of those may move through or over the state. Birders can help by conducting regular shorebird counts on a weekly to ten day basis. The numbers usually turn over with earlier migrants moving farther south and new arrivals joining the mix.
Stilt Sandpiper garners much attention in July and then gets scarcely mentioned as the fall season progresses.
Stilt Sandpipers are along with Pectoral Sandpipers the largest members of the Genus Calidris, although some taxonomists argue that placement. They more accurately from a habits standpoint seem to be a cross between dowitchers and yellowlegs. Regardless where the taxonomists place them, they seem to have a special appeal from birders, probably due to their colorful breeding plumage.
This species is much more gregarious than Greater Yellowlegs and will congregate in very large flocks at Cheyenne Bottoms, Kansas, and Quill Lakes, Saskatchewan. In spring, they follow a very narrow migration path up the center of the Great Plains. Most of the birds go to Alaska and Northwest Territories, although smaller numbers nest on the west shore of Hudson Bay. Occasionally these Hudson Bay migrants show up in Wisconsin.
The fall route is similar, but extends a little farther east with the bulk of the migrants moving west of the Mississippi River. These fall birds do not molt until they, via a different route than spring, fly over the Greater Antilles to molt in northern South America.
The perplexing statements made by birders seem to confuse the desire to see a brilliantly plumaged bird with actual migratory status of the birds. The earliest migrants usually in early July are those females that were unsuccessful breeders. Successful females move through the state around mid-July, whereas late July brings the males. The plumage becomes more worn the further into the season. Juveniles usually move through from early August through early September. The fewer the number of early birds seen in migration is a surrogate for better the breeding success, which precisely the time birders want to see many birds.
White-rumped Sandpiper – this species always generates some mention in the fall season with most sightings being casually mentioned with little fanfare.
This species is a high arctic nester meaning there is no reason to arrive on the breeding ground before mid-June. Thus, they are notoriously late spring migrants. The spring movement sees birds fly non-stop from Argentina to Suriname and Venezuela. From there, they fly over the Greater Antilles to concentration spots anywhere from North Carolina through Alabama to especially the Cheyenne Bottoms in Kansas. From there, most of them fly non-stop to their breeding grounds. A few birds need to refuel on the way, and those birds form the primary bulk of the birds stopping in Wisconsin during spring. As with almost all shorebirds some birds do not make it all the way to the breeding grounds, and in fact, many spend the summer on the wintering grounds.
In fall, White-rumped Sandpipers follow a vastly different route. The birds flow east to Labrador and Newfoundland. They concentrate on seaside mudflats building fat reserves before flying over the ocean non-stop to northern South America. Juveniles follow the same route, although they tent to linger until near freeze-up.
Every year birders report White-rumped Sandpipers in the fall. The chance of many birds moving through the state is exceedingly small. Most likely candidates for southward movement are those birds that did not complete their northward flight. These birds would be very early migrants with breeding plumage still evident. The other group would most likely be very late migrating juveniles that may hook-up with Baird’s Sandpipers moving through on a very different migratory route.
Regardless, White-rumped Sandpipers normally do not move through the state during fall migration. Any sighting needs to be tempered with caution. White-rumps in fall should be well documented and if possible photographed. Any casual statement about seeing white-rumps without careful observation details will mostly likely be dismissed by record keepers.
Fireflies or lightning bugs: Among childhood memories, the chase to capture a blinking firefly on a warm, summer evening is a one of the best. There are several species in the state found in suburban back yards, open prairies and meadows, and opening in forested areas.
Fireflies, also known as lightening bugs, are winged beetles known for their flashing lights in the twilight hours. The flash is bioluminescence, which is a type of chemical reaction producing a cold light, meaning it emits little to no heat. The chemical reaction is produced in the light-emitting, lower abdomen. The light may be yellow, green or pale red depending on the many species found in the state.
Fireflies glow as a way to communicate. Mostly, the glow attracts mates, which comes down to how it twinkles. Nearly every species of firefly has its own distinct pattern of flashing. Males and females of the same species will flash this pattern to let each other know of their presence. A few predatory firefly species mimic the flash pattern of its prey and attract and consume the prey when they respond to the mimicked flash.
Late-July floral peaks: Peak blooming has shifted to open landscapes, northern pine forests, marshlands and savannas. Late-July blooming plant observation is best accomplished by visiting these habitats. Several spring blooming species are starting to set obvious fruits in summer.
Table 1. Native Wildflowers with peak blooming times July 21 – 31
Lepidopteran activity begins to wind down for butterflies, but increases for underwing moths: Late-July is the later end of the peak diversity for butterflies and skippers. Several butterfly species listed in the mid-July table still persist in late-July. Several large moth species can be found in good numbers.
Table 2. Large and more recognizable Lepidopterans whose flight period either starts in late-July or is limited to this time period.
Bog dragonflies: bogs are incredibly interesting places for the naturalist to observe. A succession of flowering plants bloom throughout most of the summer -orchids displays and several dragonfly species do best in the fish free acid bods waters.
Bogs can also be dangerous! Mats of vegetation can develop over water. If you fall through, getting out can either be very difficult or even deadly. Even in places where bogs for over organic soils, the mere presence of foot prints can take decades to recover, due to the very slow growth of bog plants. Naturalist should consider viewing bog plants and animals from existing structure such as boardwalks.
Many trails, especially in the Northwoods, have short sections of boardwalk. Most nature centers and sometimes resorts have short sections of boardwalk. A few places in the state are outstanding for viewing the bog world, because the boardwalks were specifically developed for that purpose. Some of the better boardwalks for access to the interior of bogs are: the trails at the Ridges Sanctuary near Bailey’s Harbor, the Forest Lodge Nature Trail near Cable, the Brule Bog Trail – just north of Solon Springs, Cedarburg Bog State Natural area just west of Saukville, Beulah Bog State Natural Area near East Troy, Spruce Lake Bog Natural Area near Dundee, the North Lakeland Discovery Center bog trail near Manitowish Waters, the Scott-Shelp Lake Natural Area trail near Three Lakes, Franklin Nature Trail is found east of Eagle River, and the trail system at Point Beach State Forest goes across many boggy swales.
Late July is a great to look for bog dragonflies on these trails and others. Species to be expected are: Lake darner, black-tipped darner, lance-tipped darner, variable darner, subarctic darner, zizzag darner, American emerald, racket-tailed emerald, Hudsonian emerald, four-spotted skimmer, slaty skimmer, black meadowhawk, white-faced meadowhawk, elfin skimmer, Canada whiteface, Hudsonian whiteface, crimson-ringed whiteface, red-waisted whiteface, and frosted whiteface.
Stinkbugs: Stinkbugs can be crop-damaging plant feeders or voracious predators. They use their piercing mouth parts to inject saliva that pre-digests their food, whether it’s plant material of animal flesh. Obvious stink bugs in our state are the green stink bug, which feeds on crops and fruit trees. The brown stink bug likes open grasslands and gardens where it feeds on flowers and fruits. The red-backed stink bug feeds on trees and shrubs. The two-spotted stink bug is a predator that specializes in feeding in the Colorado potato beetle.
Bryophytes: Not much in the way of flowering and fruiting happens in the deep shaded forest, ravines and cliff faces at this time of year. The naturalist, however, can experience the happenings in the Lilliputian world of bryophytes by visiting the shaded realm in mid-summer.
Mosses, liverworts and hornworts – collectively called bryophytes – need places, which have adequate moisture and not much else is needed. They can thrive in very bare soils and under low light conditions. These plants do not flower; they have fruiting stalks that emerge. Moss fruiting bodies appear as capsules on stalks. Liverworts have cup or umbrella-like structures and hornworts have horn shaped structures. Many species can have fruiting bodies in mid-summer. Especially check dipping cliffs for liverworts that look like green snakeskin.
Sirius or “dog star” is our brightest star and can be seen ascending in the early morning east sky just before dawn.
American Goldfinch nesting activity reaches its peak. This species times its nesting to provide its favorite food, thistle seeds, to their growing young.
Shorebird migration is building with adult Least Sandpiper and Stilt Sandpiper reaching their peak numbers.
Time for the mid-summer replacements – three orthopteran utilizing the same habitat and food source, swap places at this time of year. The spring field cricket’s season is done and is replaced by the fall field cricket. The red-winged locust replaces the yellow-winged locust. And finally, the common meadow katydid replaces the gladiator meadow katydid.
The picnic beetle reaches its peak numbers to the bane of many outdoor meals.
Colorado potato beetles are serious pests of potatoes, but they can also be found in wet disturbed areas feeding on nettles.
Tiger beetles reach their peak numbers from now through Labor Day. These highly active predators are difficult to catch in the heat of the day. It is best to find them early before they have warmed. Several species inhabit the state. Each species has distinctive marking son its elytra and therefore, species identification is quite easy. Look for these active predators in sandy disturbed areas.
Several species of deer fly and horse fly reach their peak numbers at this time of year. They are voracious in openings statewide. The only places with these biting flies are lawns, parking lots, and the middle of lakes.
Mushrooms species to look for during late July are: chanterelles, slippery cap, cedar apple rust, American parasol, and variegated brittle gill.
Baneberry fruiting (both species)
Downy serviceberry fruit
Common evening primrose
Slender evening primrose
White prairie clover
Purple prairie clover
Downy rattlesnake plantain
Great St. John's-wort
Downy arrow-wood fruit
Prickly pear cactus fruit
Royal fern spores
Dry to mesic woods
Disturbed areas esp. burn areas
Dry to mesic woods
Oak and pine forests
Fields and roadsides
Fields and roadsides
Sandy fields and woods
Cedar swamps. Moist conifer woods
Wet prairies, meadows and ditches
Sandy or peaty shores
Marshes and stream banks
Dry-mesic to wet-mesic prairies
Dry to mesic prairies
Wet woods and stream banks
Moist fields and prairies
Dry to moist prairies
Dry to moist prairies
Sandy fields and woods
Sandy prairies and fields
Dry pine and oak woodlands
Wet meadows, fens & stream sides
Sand barrens, rock outcrops
Bogs and sedge meadows
Dry savannas, rock outcrops
Bogs and fens
Prairies and dry meadows
Wet prairies, meadows and ditches
Dry wooded slopes
Wet meadows and forests
Mottled dusky-wing (2nd brood)
Smoky eyed brown
Phyllira tiger moth
Oithonia tiger moth
Oak and pine barrens
Wet meadows, marshes
Gardens (tomato hornworm)
Rare in barrens and dunes
Rare in wet meadows
New Jersey tea
Nomad from south
Sedges and grass
Wooly aphids on alders
Wild pea and painted-cups