Exploring July in The Last Green Valley

Exploring July in The Last Green Valley

Welcome to July! Summer might have officially started back on June 21, but for me this month is when the summer finally settles in for its all too brief three-month turn on the calendar. To help you get in the July summer season mood, here is a short list of things to look for in nature this month in addition to a few favorite July 4 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 through late fall when they’ll head out on their own to establish their own territory.
  • Here in The Last Green Valley, we have documented 14 successful bald eagle nests. More than likely there are several more we don’t know about yet. Eggs hatched in March and April and now the fledglings are taking that first leap of faith from the safety of their nests. By mid-July most of the eaglets will have fledged though they will typically stay in the nest territory for a couple of months. With the help of the adult pair, they’ll learn to hunt for and catch their own food (fish) 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 the 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. Other animals with this characteristic include the panda bear 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 (buck) 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 and brown hairs over a short wooly undercoat that provide insulation against the frigid winter weather.
  • For me July means the fireflies in the night. There is nothing quite like watching the silent sparks of these amazing insects. They live for a couple of years under underground in the larva stage before they pupate and emerge as the adult insect. It is the males that fly, blinking their hopeful light to attract a female. The females don’t fly but climb on a tall piece of grass or bush and blink their amorous intentions to the male. They only live for a few weeks and now is the time to catch their lightshow.
  • There are sounds in the night – 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?”

It is hard to imagine the month of July without our national celebration of Independence Day. This July 4 year marks 246 year 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 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 that hold July 4th parades, celebrations and fireworks. If you really enjoy fireworks then you’re in luck since multiple towns hold firework displays, and they are not all scheduled on the 4th. Norwich and Putnam both have displays coming next weekend. Please remember to leave your dog at home, animals do not enjoy the booming of fireworks as it is painful to their sensitive ears.

Here are two celebrations happening on the 4th that are favorites of mine.

  • One of the more unique events on Independence Day is the Boom Box Parade in Willimantic. This unique parade features no marching bands. Spectators and marchers bring radios tuned to WILI-AM which plays marching band music. The parade starts at 11 am in Jillson Square Park and heads west on Main Street. Plan on getting there early to find parking and a place along the parade route.
  • My favorite Independence Day event is the East Woodstock July 4th Jamboree held each year on the East Woodstock Common. It is organized by the East Woodstock Congregational Church and is their 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 am and end with a flag ceremony at 5 pm. The Jamboree has been referred to as a Norman Rockwell painting come to life, and I wholeheartedly agree.

By July the ocean has warmed enough for me to dare stick my toe in the water and enjoy an invigorating ocean swim. My favorite beach location that is close to The Last Green Valley is Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme. The water depth is mostly shallow and warm. The park is a great ocean location for parents with young children and even has bath and shower facilities. Better still, it is free for Connecticut residents, but you do have to go early or risk missing out as the park routinely has to turn away visitors on the weekend as it reaches capacity. Check the CT DEEP website at: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?q=325256

Welcome July and hello summer 2022 I hope you’ll enjoy the month ahead and take in our region’s celebrations 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.

We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. I hope you’ll join me and together let us enjoy it, care for it, and pass it on.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org or by calling 860-774-3300.

Exploring The Last Green Valley, Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the following article.  The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.


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