Countless Activities in Region This Summer

Welcome to July. Summer might have officially started June 21, but for me this month is when the summer season finally settles in for its all-too-brief three-month turn on the calendar. To help you get in the July mood, here is a short list of things to look for in nature this month in addition to a few favorite Independence Day regional events.

-The nighttime yelping and howling from the woods and meadows is a family of coyotes. The pups were born in March and April and have grown to the point where they are now joining their parents and learning to hunt. They will stay with their parents until late fall when they’ll head out on their own to establish their own territories.

-Here in The Last Green Valley, we have six successful bald eagle nests. Eggs hatched in March and April and, now, the fledglings are launching from their nests for the first time. By mid-July most of the eaglets will have fledged though they will stay in the nest territory for a couple of months. With the help of the adult pair, they’ll learn to fish, hunt and fend for themselves before departing their nest territory later in the autumn months.

-July is when the milkweed plant will begin to flower and that means beautiful Monarch butterflies will return and lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. The monarch butterfly is a “monophagous” species, which means that during one stage of its life, it relies on a single food source – milkweed. Another animal with this characteristic includes the panda with its reliance on bamboo.

-Wild turkey hens and their young “poults” can be seen wandering the woods and fields scratching for bugs and seeds. You may see two or three hens, along with young females, or nurse hens, together tending to the young. This provides safety in numbers, with the adult hens always on the lookout for danger.

-By the end of July, the antlers of the male white-tailed deer will be almost full size. The summer coat of the deer consists of short hairs of glossy reddish brown. They will molt later in August and September to their winter coat of hollow gray brown hairs over a short wooly undercoat, which provides insulation against the frigid winter.

-Look for blooming Queen Anne’s lace in fields and meadows. This beautiful white-lace-like bloom is identified by the single black dot in the middle of the flowers. A member of the carrot family, Queen Anne’s lace is a biennial and also called wild carrot.

It is hard to imagine the month of July without our national celebration of Independence Day. This July 4 marks 242 years since the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence thereby declaring the American colonies free and independent states. Thank goodness they completed this important task during the summer instead of in February or March. Nothing against those two fine winter months, but between cold weather and mud season it would be hard to enjoy fireworks and parades, let alone family outdoor gatherings.

There are several towns in The Last Green Valley holding Fourth of July parades, celebrations and fireworks. I suggest you check The Bulletin or your local newspaper for listings of events near you. If you really enjoy fireworks then you’re in luck because several towns hold fireworks displays, and they are not all scheduled on the fourth.. With some planning, you can attend a few fireworks displays during the week. Please remember to leave your dog at home. Dogs and other animals do not enjoy the booming of fireworks because it is painful to their sensitive ears.

Here are three celebrations on the Fourth.

-Canterbury has a parade at 10 a.m. at the Helen Baldwin Middle School. Following the parade are activities with several vendors at the Town Hall Community Center.

-One of the more unique events on Independence Day is the Boom Box Parade in Willimantic. Now in its 33rd year, this unique parade has no marching bands. Spectators and marchers bring radios tuned to WILI-AM which plays marching band music. The parade kicks off at 11 a.m. and you’ll want to get there early for parking and finding a place along the parade route.

-My favorite Independence Day event is the East Woodstock Fourth of July Jamboree, held each year on the East Woodstock Common. It is organized by the East Woodstock Congregational Church and is an important fundraising event for the church. The common is filled with food, crafts, family fun activities, music and a traditional parade. The festivities begin at 10 a.m. and end with a flag ceremony at 5 p.m.

For me, July means the sounds of summer nights – especially the singing of crickets. Cutting through the insect symphony is the occasional hoot of an owl. Nocturnal by nature, owls hunt and communicate with their mates and announce territories at night. My favorite is the call of the barred owl, our most common owl species. It sounds like someone calling from the deep woods: “Who, who, who cooks for you all?”

July is when I stock up on blueberries and raspberries. We’ll fill several freezer bags to last us through the year. Blueberries started ripening in late June and, along with raspberries, will continue into July so look for local pick-your-own farms. At our house, we have a large raspberry patch but only a few blueberry bushes, so we’ll be heading over to Lapsley Orchard in Pomfret to stock up for the year.

There are more than 20 communities in The Last Green Valley offering free outdoor summer evening concerts. Concerts on our region’s commons and greens are a wonderful tradition and perfect way to spend a summer’s eve. Check your local paper for a list of summer concerts in your area. Also, on page 30 and 31 of the TLGV 2018 Explore Guide is a list of towns with summer concerts. If you don’t have a copy of the guide, give us a call at (860) 774-3300.

Welcome July, and hello summer 2018. I hope you’ll enjoy the month ahead and take in our region’s celebration of Independence Day. I’ll be looking for the signs of summer that nature provides each and every day and bask in the warmth of living in a beautiful region with countless summertime activities.

Bill Reid is the chief ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org.