July phenology

Holy Wisdom MonasteryCare for the Earth, Friends of Wisdom Prairie, Phenology 1 Comment

By Sylvia Marek

Monarch on butterfly weed

Monarch on butterfly weed

Phenology is a science focused on observing and recording biological events from year to year and their relationships to the change of seasons and climate.

These are the “normal” phenology events we expect to see here and in the Madison area this month. We would love to hear about what you are seeing on the grounds of Holy Wisdom Monastery. Please comment on this post with what you are observing, where at Holy Wisdom and the date you observed the event.

July Phenology

The following July events are from observations I have recorded over the years:

  • Usually the warmest and sunniest month of the year
  • By the end of July, days are a half hour shorter
  • Nesting season is over for most species
  • Fall shorebird migration is underway
  • Annual Audubon butterfly count
  • Increase in insect life
  • Flowers bloom profusely
  • Fruits ripen


  • Goldfinch and cedar waxwing start nesting
  • Most birds have raised young, sing less and start to molt
  • Some species have second broods and continue to sing (robin, cardinal, bluebird, song sparrow and others)
  • Listen for parental calls, scolds and begging and calls of young (chickadee, tufted titmouse, robin, oriole, bluebird, rose-breasted grosbeak, house and sedge wren)
  • Bird songs are more quiet in July though several species continue to sing (especially in early morn): wood pewee, house wren, goldfinch, wood thrush, red-eyed vireo, indigo bunting, song sparrow, field sparrow, sedge wren, robin, and cardinal
  • Young, barred, great horned and screech owls continue to beg and are now able to fly
  • Red-breasted nuthatch usually show up in my yard for several days in July, then leave
  • Tree swallows flock
  • Fall shorebird migration is underway by mid-July. Look for short-billed dowitcher, stilt, solitary and least sandpiper, semi-palmated plover, yellowlegs, phalarope and others.


  • Young are active (raccoon, rabbit, chipmunk, flying and gray squirrel, opossum, fox, coyote, woodchuck)
  • Spotted fawns follow their mothers
  • Deer antlers are in the pulpy velvet stage
  • Mole activity increases
  • Sadly, only a few bats are seen now due to white-nose syndrome, a fungus that has killed millions of North American bats


  • Annual Madison butterfly count held around July 4
  • July is the flight period for over 30 species of butterflies and skippers (monarch, common wood nymph, Eastern tiger and black swallowtail, three fritillary species, four or more hairstreak species, red-spotted purple, viceroy, spring azure, Eastern-tailed blue, pearl crescent, red admiral, American painted lady, clouded sulphur, alfalfa, cabbage white, silver spotted skipper and serval other skipper species)
  • Moths are active also (geometer, sphinx, tiger, underwing, etc). My favorites are Virginia ctenucha, grape leaf folder, Isabella moth (woolly bear), and white-striped black (found near and on jewelweed)
  • Look for the beautiful iridescent native dogbane beetle on spreading dogbane and Indian hemp
  • Iridescent non-native Japanese beetles are numerous this month and feed heavily, destroying flowers and leaves
  • Look for the beautiful golden tortoise beetle on plants in the morning glory family. They can change from gold to orange and non-metallic.
  • Abundance of ladybugs and aphids
  • Listen for rhythmic chants, trills, chirps and tics of katydids, grasshoppers and crickets. Bees buzz and hum and cicadas make loud pulsating buzzing sounds. (Favorite insect musicians are the snowy tree and black-horned tree crickets)
  • Dragonflies and damselflies are very active. (A favorite damselfly is the ebony jewelwing)
  • Fireflies twinkle like stars in the darkness
  • Horse and deer flies bite
  • Mosquitoes have voracious appetites
  • Deer and black-legged ticks seek blood meals and can transmit Lyme disease. Take precaution!
  • Chigger or harvest mite larvae cause extreme itching


  • Look for orb weavers and their lovely circular webs
  • Colorful small crab spiders can be found on flowers
  • Jumping spiders look like they are dancing (very cute)

Plants (prairies, wetlands and roadsides)

  • Fragrant flowers include common and swamp milkweed, bergamot, mountain mint, spreading dogbane, rose and white water-lily
  • The parade of flowers this month include many yellow, purple and white species.
  • The yellow flowers include yellow coneflower, coreopsis, ox-eye, black-eyed Susan and other rudbeckia species, cup-plant, cut leaf compass-plant, prairie dock, rosinweed, evening primrose, St. John’s wort, ragwort, cinqfoil species, common, grass-leaved and showy goldenrod, saw-tooth sunflower, yellow water-lily, yellow jewelweed (impatiens palada) and invasive wild parsnip
  • The purple flowers include purple coneflower, common, purple and swamp milkweed, lead-plant, germander, purple prairie clover, purple loosestrife, bergamot, liatris species (gayfeather, blazing star), ironweed, spotted and purple joe-pye weed, hoary and blue vervain, Canada tick-clover, thistles, pickerel-weed, and anise or purple hyssop.
  • The white flowers include rattlesnake master, mountain mint,Culver’s root, white prairie clover, whorled milkweed, boneset, heath aster, flowering spurge, spotted water-hemlock, pale Indian-plantain, Queen Anne’s lace, cowbane, glade mallow, fleabane, New Jersey tea, clasping dogbane (Indian hemp), yarrow, white sage, wild quinine, bush clover, thimbleweed, tall meadowrue, pokeweed, prairie-fringed orchid, water-lily, American lotus and white-water crowfoot.
  • Blue flowers – great blue lobelia, American or tall bellflower, harebell, chicory, blue flag iris, and a few last spiderwort
  • Orange flowers – Turk’s cap lily, butterfly-weed, jewelweed (impatiens biflora)
  • Whitish pink flowers- spreading dogbane, biennial gaura, bouncing-bet, nodding wild onion and smartweeds
  • Red cardinal flower

Ripe Fruits

  • Blackcap and red raspberries, common and red-berried elderberry, blueberries, red-mulberry, non-native honeysuckle, and black choke and pin cherries


  • Eastern gray and Copes treefrogs, green and bull frogs call
  • Turtles sun on logs. Young hatch

Sylvia Marek is a highly trained and experienced naturalist. She works for the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and is a first rate birder.

Please share the biological events you notice while at Holy Wisdom Monastery below (remember to include what you see, where and when).

Comments 1

  1. I love this column [or is it called a “blog” in more modern pixel/gigabyte terminology, please be patient with us, the older electronically challenged elders] and was wondering, for those of us who are not blessed to be near enough the Holy Wisdom to relay sightings there, might you also be interested in any of the phenology events and experiences we might notice in our neck of the woods? I’d be interested in hearing/reading about the phenological diversity of the various places around the world. Just a thought.

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