Phenology Daybook: August 28, 2020


August 28th

The 240th Day of the Year


The rayons of the sun we see

Diminish in their strength,

The shade of every tower and tree

Extended is in length.


Alexander Hume


Sunrise/set: 5:59/7:13

Day’s Length: 13 hours 14 minutes

Average High/Low: 82/61

Average Temperature: 71

Record High: 96 – 1953

Record Low: 40 – 1910



Today is another pivot day on the way to autumn as the chances of a high in the 60s rise to 15 percent. Seventy-degree highs take place 25 percent of the time; 80s occur 40 percent, 90s twenty percent. Lows dip below 60 on a third of all the nights. Rain falls (and the sun fails to shine) today 65 percent of the years, making this is one of the three wettest and grayest days of the summer months; July 3rd and June 20th are the other two in my weather notes. And, for the first time since the beginning of June, the lightest of frosts becomes a slight possibility.


Natural Calendar

It is the week of the first frost in the Montana mountains, time for snow in Canada. Sundogs, sun through crystals, sometimes form over the Ohio Valley these afternoons, foretaste of the winter sky.



1979: Northeast maple in the yard starts to turn.


1981: All lightning bugs gone.


1982: Geese fly over 7:45 a.m. All lightning bugs gone. Raspberries continue to come in, another quart this morning.


1983: Down the railroad tracks past the Vale: Hops in layered flowers, catmint still in bloom, tall bellflower fading. Dayflowers, ironweed, jumpseed, smartweed, giant yellow hyssop, white morning glories, a few domestic phlox holding. Field thistle up to seven feet with bright violet flowers. Wild cherry has dark fruit. Purple berries and fading leaves on the pokeweed. Sundrops remain, but most great mulleins gone. White sweet clover hanging on, probably cut over. Thin-leafed coneflowers late bloom, boneset and white snakeroot still common. Elms seem to be getting lighter, blanching with the approach of fall. Milkweed bugs are still mating, spotted orange touch-me-nots still blooming, wingstem, a few fleabane, beggarticks almost blooming, soapwort, goldenrod not even yellow here; horseweed, burdock brown and bent. Trumpet creepers still strong, bright orange.


1984: The leaves are turning: catalpas are paling, some maples red, some yellowing. Poplars, hackberries started to deteriorate a week or two ago.


1988: Now elderberries are deep purple (as are my grapes) and sweet for picking. Rudbeckia speciosa, showy coneflower, still full bloom, but shifting past its peak. Japanese knotweed open in the yard. Milkweed bugs still mating.


1989: Mourning doves still calling off and on today, Late Summer holding.


1990: More cabbage butterflies along Wilberforce-Clifton. Some great autumnal hatch.


1992: Joe Pye weed at Wilberforce still full bloom. Doves call after dawn. Cardinals sing once, 5:45 a.m. Last of the white phlox today; several red blossoms stay. Goldenrod finally blooms along Grinnell and throughout my drive. Monarchs and swallowtails increasing at the zinnias.


1998: Tulip trees half yellow. The pond’s last arrowhead bloomed today; the rest of the plant has round and green seedpods, three-fourths of an inch across. Some black walnut trees in town are completely bare, fruits dangling in the wind.


1999: A dove was calling this morning, maybe eight o’clock. Some goldenrod flushed but not even close to opening. Heliopsis and showy coneflowers continue to deteriorate quickly, the south garden finally losing its vitality. Along the Carolina coast, Hurricane Dennis is moving in.


2000: Soft whinny of a screech owl in the back trees at 6:13 a.m.


2001: Only crickets this morning until one cardinal sang at 5:45. Webworms noticed in the pussy willows. They must have just emerged – their web seeming to appear over night. Scorpion fly found in the north garden.


2002: Two monarchs flew by together as I walked near the zinnias. This afternoon, I found an ailanthus webworm moth on the archway into the house.


2003: Fall sedum is coming into bloom by the front porch. Four more monarchs seen today. A huge camel cricket got into the tub last night, was hiding behind the shampoo bottles this morning. Bella found a baby squirrel among the debris of the locust that fell yesterday. It was three to four weeks old, eyes not open yet. We gave it a little liquid, then took it to an animal rescue center in Troy.


2004: One cardinal song at 5:50 this morning. A flock of crows was calling about five minutes later. Then silence, then more crows and cardinals a little after 6:00, then quiet. Working outside this afternoon, I noticed how sluggish the scorpion flies were, allowing me to brush them off the plants.


2005: Doves calling at 5:30 a.m. Cardinals a little later. At Antioch School, the mountain maple seeds hang in brown clusters.


2007: Heat and clear sky today before the cool front due tomorrow. Japanese knotweed, stonecrop, jumpseeds, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed Susans, a few roses, hibiscus and the Royal Standard hosta are the perennials flowering in the yard. Rose of Sharon blossoms are becoming scarce. Few birds have come to the feeder the past day or two, almost no morning birdsong. Painted lady (Cynthia) butterfly seen in the garden yesterday and the day before – the first I’ve noticed this summer. I drove south to Hillsboro this evening. Once I reached Jamestown about 15 miles from home, I reached the drought area. From there for the next 40 miles, the corn fields were stressed and withering, soybeans stunted and turning gold. The grass on one graveyard was completely brown.


2008: Silent mornings, thunderous katydids at night. The finches, males still very bright gold, continue to feed hard. No monarch butterflies since the 18th. More streaks of yellow in the black walnut trees along Limestone Street. Red maple foliage has faded at the triangle park. Hawthorn berries still green, the pollen berries still holding. The alley is on the edge of Early Fall, only the great mullein pollen keeping it in summer. Against the stone wall, white and red Oriental lilies have come into bloom from a late planting. This evening, well before dark, a large black skunk with white top fur scrounged for sunflower seeds under the bird feeders in the back yard.


2009: Hops clusters heavy on the honeysuckles. Heliopsis, black-eyed Susans, Shasta daisies, Rudbeckia speciosa hold. Late giant hibiscus, a handful of pink mallow, strong Knock-out roses. Full knotweed, ironweed about gone, late hostas still strong, dahlias, butterfly bushes. Oakleaf hydrangeas still provide body and variety to the northwest garden. Phlox are spotty but bright. Webworms high in the box elder.


2010: Skippers still abundant, monarchs, male and female tiger swallowtails still steady visitors to the butterfly bushes and zinnias.


2011: Several monarchs, one spicebush swallowtail, one buckeye, many skippers and cabbage butterflies today. No cardinal heard this morning, but a dove and crows were calling between 6:00 and 7:00. Chickadees and hummingbirds feeding back and forth around 8:00.


2012: Whistling crickets and handsome trigs at 5:00 a.m., Orion in the east, Jupiter overhead, Venus rising, crows at 5:30, a distant cardinal at 5:40, tufted titmouse at 5:45. Only crows at vespers. More trees join the color: ochre cottonwoods, yellow and orange sycamores, drooping catalpas.


2013: On the way to the airport, I saw the first great flock of starlings of the autumn swooping and diving south above the freeway.


2014: Walking with Jeff along the bike path south of Cedarville: Wingstem, bouncing bets, ironweed, early goldenrod, field thistles, white snakeroot all in bloom. One buckeye butterfly, one small black swallowtail, one monarch, one male tiger swallowtail. The berries of a bittersweet vine were pale gold, and most of the berries from a wild cherry tree had fallen to the path, as had wild cherry fruit yesterday at John Bryan Park. At home, another tiger, a frenetic great spangled fritillary, and many cabbage whites. Around the neighborhood, autumn allium, stonecrop, virgin’s bower, late white-flowered hostas, late rudbeckia dominate the perennial gardens. No birdsong in the evening.


2015: Crows at 5:35. A glance outside in the sun, warm: a monarch at the tithonias. In the yard, one tall red hibiscus, one lily, a yellow rebloomer, late violet hostas with late blossoms, new September hostas reaching early bloom, jumpseeds, Shasta daisies, knotweed, rudbeckia, pink-flowered stonecrop (Autumn Joy) and the clearweed which has filled in around almost all the plants, offering a deep green groundcover.


2016: Day trip to southwest Ohio with Jill: Lush farmland throughout, some fields brown with corn tassels, only one soybean field turning. Wildflowers in the mountains: ironweed, Jerusalem artichokes, wingstem, field thistles, Joe Pye weed (less gray than the ones at home), some early goldenrod. Then as we walked in the evening before sundown, and as dark storm clouds were appearing in the northwest, Jill spotted a long, long line of blackbirds just above the eastern woods, several branches of the flock moving to join the larger group, all of them flying southeast away from the storm, their passage seeming to last forever – maybe five minutes.


2017: A cardinal sang at 5:36, crows just a few minutes later. The first Jumpseeds jump when I finger their stems. Buds have formed on some of the New England asters, but no purple shows yet. Small (perhaps recently emerged) scorpion flies, the first I have seen since spring. A very large flock of starlings (probably) flew over the grocery store when we arrived in the early evening. Heavy rain, up to 50 inches, has flooded the whole city of Houston, the worst flood in American history.


2019: The cool front arrives after yesterday’s rain. Sunny. windy and mild today. Cabbage whites and monarchs in the garden, an Eastern Black, an exotic zebra swallowtail and yellow sulphurs. At Ellis Pond, the arrowhead flowers are all gone.


2020: Little butterfly activity seen today, but one giant swallowtail came by.


Like imaginary lines of longitude and latitude, the plats of zeitgebers (clusters of events in nature that tell the time of year) delineate space as well as time, name local as well as regional dimensions of the Earth’s relationship to the Sun and provide soft borders to the seasons.


Bradford Townsend

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