About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, July 16, 2012

What are the Dog Days of Summer?

Baby Baltimore Oriole waiting for food
I had a very good spring and summer watching the Baltimore Orioles feeding regularly from the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store’s window feeder. One of my best salesmen, the bright orange and black bird sold hundreds of oriole feeders to awed customers and worked for only a few mealworms, bottles of BirdBerry jelly and lots of sugar water.

Recently he brought his big yellow babies up to feed too. Now they are preparing to fly south. The nesting season is over for lots of birds. As the morning bird chorus slows down, the sounds of summer switch to the buzzing song of the Cicadias'.

Summer is the season for insects. Unfortunately with so little rain in the Lansing area this year, a lot of birds are still supplementing their diet at bird feeders. The blackbirds, which usually leave the feeders to search for yummy bugs in the lawn didn’t leave.

Am. Robin digging under the feeders for spilled nuts and seeds
And I’ve never had so many customers ask what to feed their robins. People noticed that lots of American Robins have also been hanging out under the bird feeders to find a quick treat in this sweltering weather.

These hot, sultry days of summer in the Northern Hemisphere are called the Dog Days of Summer. According to John Brady’s Analysis of the Calendar in 1813, this is believed to be an evil time when "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies."

Am. Goldfinch eating Canada Thistle
The Old Farmer's Almanac lists the traditional timing of the Dog Days as the 40 days beginning July 3 and ending August 11, coinciding with the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius. These are the days of the year when rainfall is at its lowest levels.

The American Goldfinches have just started their nesting season right now. They wait for flowers to go to seed. Grasses, Milkweed, wild Canada Thistles and other weeds are important to goldfinches, as a source of food and as raw material for their nests.

Then we come out of the Dog Days into my favorite time of year! By mid-August you'll wake up every morning to the tinkling tune of baby goldfinches!

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