The Summer Nature Journal

Bee sipping nectar from a Sienna
Bee sipping nectar from a Sienna. Photo by Donna L. Long

The summer nature journal can be full of new insights everyday. Nature in summer is bursting at the seams with life and activity.

Now we have the warmest time of the year with high temperatures, long hot days and uncomfortably warm nights.

Summer for me, always has had a laid-back easiness. And a mañana attitude that things can get done tomorrow.

A Summer Nature Journal Needs Focus

I’ll give my usual advice in nature study, choose your focus. If you don’t choose your focus you’ll see everything but learn nothing in-depth. And a nature journal or naturalist’s notebook with a clear focus can be very helpful in the future.

Summer Solstice

The season begins on the summer solstice on June 21 or 22, depending on the year. The Northern Hemisphere has summer in June, July, August and September.

In the southern hemisphere summer solstice happens on December 21 or 22. There, summer is in December, January, February and March. The Southern hemisphere has summer while the northern hemisphere has winter.

The summer solstice is the day when the North Pole is at its’ greatest slant toward the sun. The sun is high in the sky and directly overhead. The longest day of the year is on the summer solstice or shortly before or after it.

At this time of year, there are several striking night sky constellations. In the northern hemisphere are, Scorpius the Scorpion, visible just above the southern horizon, and Virgo, and the Corona Borealis (the Northern Crown).

Summer Weather

The eastern half of the North American continent, from the Rocky Mountains eastward, experiences warm, humid weather. Warm southern winds carry moisture north from the Gulf of Mexico to central and eastern North America. The warmest temperatures are in the interior of the continent, namely the prairie and plains regions.

Rarely, does it thunderstorm in the morning where I live. And sometimes it rains every afternoon for a month. My home of Philadelphia is surrounded by two rivers, the Schuylkill and the Delaware and with the Atlantic Ocean less than one hundred miles away, Philadelphia is hot and humid through much of the summer.

For me this time of year means afternoon thunderstorms. When I was a child, it used to rain around five o’clock every afternoon just as my dad was getting off from work. He would get drenched and we would always have towels at the front door for him to dry off.

Because of the humidity and heat during the day, I tend to go outside very early in the morning. Nature in summer is filled with activity, but even the birds rest in the shade at mid-day. Remember to keep your water bowls full for the birds and other animals. Sometimes, I have to fill mine twice a day!

goldenrod and insects: Bumblebee on Goldenrod
goldenrod and insects: Bumblebee on Goldenrod

Plants in Summer

It always fascinates me how perennial plants grow so quickly in the spring and summer months. Some grow quite large and then die back to the ground and start over next spring.

With so many flowers in full bloom, now is a good time to learn the parts of a flower. Tree leaves hold the key to species identification.

Summer and autumn are the fruiting seasons. Many vines, shrubs, trees and flowering plants produce fleshy fruit to entice birds and animals to eat them. Fruits eaten are dispersed when animals and birds defecate them. Now is a good time to study the relationship between, fruiting plants and the birds and other animals that eat them.

Goldenrods and Milkweed plants are busy places of insect activities. Monarch butterflies, milkweed beetles and milkweed bugs are just a few of the insects that use the Milkweed plant. The goldenrods host a wide range of insects.

A male American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) in Chiquimula, Guatemala. Photo courtesy Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canadaderivative work: Snowmanradio, CC BY-SA 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Animals in Summer

Birds nest and raise their young in summer. By late summer the birds begin to migrate to their cold weather homes.

If you like insects, now is your time of year. The calls of crickets and frogs fill the night air. And lightning bugs (fireflies) flash their mating signals in the dark of early night. If you want hours of fascination, watch the drama on a goldenrod or milkweed plant. It is amazing the variety and number of insects (and their) predators which gather on either plant.

Each plant community is worthy of study. Instead of traveling to old fields near my house, I have planted milkweed and goldenrods in my backyard. I want to take a lot of insect photos. This should be a great way to continue my ongoing study of camouflage and mimicry among insects and spiders. A hand lens comes in very handy for viewing tiny insect beings.

Humans in Summer

As the weather heats up, we humans wear less clothes.  We open our windows and sit on our porches.  We eat seasonal food like melons and berries.  We barbecue and go on picnics. We remove heavy blankets from our beds.  We are outside more. We watch thunderstorms in awe. We listen to cicadas buzzing in hot afternoons.

Nature in summer is exciting and filled with many things to learn. The focus of this summer nature journal page is to help us to narrow down the choices. Perhaps, insects are your favorites. Or birds. Those of us who like to draw beautiful flowers are so dizzy with choices, we don’t know where to start. So, take a deep breath. Relax. And focus. Nature in Summer awaits.

More Posts

Seasonal Foods for Summer

Nature in Summer: An Overview

Confusing Summer Eclipse Plumage of Waterfowl

Summer-into-Fall Blooming Native Plants for Philadelphia



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