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The Longest day

Ranger Steve

By Ranger Steve Mueller

The longest day has come and gone. Spring has ended and summer has begun. We had a couple weeks of unseasonably hot weather in the 80’s and even 90º F days to close spring. The longest hours of daylight mark the start of summer. The solstice has the longest daylight followed by shortening daylight hours. This year the solstice arrived with cool weather. High temperature was in the 60’s and at the close of day it was 52ºF.

I sat on the back porch clothed in a warm sweater at 9:35 p.m. to watch the fading of color. I wanted to know the latest I could see colors. Shades of green were broadcast from trees, yard grass, and garden plants. As I relaxed in a chair, I heard birds chirping in the woods to the north of the yard. I could not see them. At 9:44 a Barred Owl flew from north of the yard to trees southward. It was pursued by two disturbed chirping American Robins. It was still light enough to see the orange robin breasts. 

Two Great Blue Herons flew from east to west over the house at 9:48. I could only discern gray color but even in bright daylight they appear grayer than blue. 

The birds were unexpected treats as dusk claimed the evening and dimmed vegetation colors. 

My ears were searching for sounds in the evening quiet but it had become silent.

Gradually the green in most trees vanished like the sounds but the crab apple tree glowed with faint color. Ground vegetation greens continued until the first evening star appeared at 10:06 p.m. The star was Vega in the constellation Lyra the harp. We were only three days from a full moon and its brightness kept other stars from piercing the sky’s dark envelope with pinhole dots of white. 

When the first star appeared, I conceded color had vanished from the landscape. It was now just my imagination that saw greens. There were varying intensities of light reflecting from different plants but colors were gone. The only color remaining was blue in the sky, high overhead, and that, too, was fading. By 10:17 the blue had vaporized. 

I retreated into the house to warm. When I turned on a light, the outside seemed to suddenly become dark. 

The robins had settled for the evening, the herons surely had found their night roosting site. They were probably at a nest in their communal breeding colony. The Barred Owl was busy hunting to satisfy its hunger after a day of sleep. 

The longest day was ending and I had witnessed daytime animals protecting their young from a predator and a hungry owl beginning its night work. Bright colors in trees dimmed and disappeared. Greens in the yard were gone but activity of night insects and rodents increased beyond the ability of my eyes to notice. 

The daily pageant of life activities was ensuing but the creatures were most likely unaware it was the longest day of the year. From this day forward, daylight hours shorten for six months. Summer warmth would increase despite the shortening daylight hours. Much like the coldest days of the year that come a month or two after the winter solstice, the warmest days come a month or two after the summer solstice. 

We have a couple months ahead to spend enjoying warm days in hot summer fun. 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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