Summer time, and the living is easy!
It’s summer, the favorite season of ice cream vendors and pool salespeople. It’s a time for BBQs, wearing flip flops and sitting on patios. It’s also a time of easy, or at least easier living, for a lot of our local wildlife. Gone are the days of winter hardship and of spring scrounging for suitable locations to have babies! It’s summertime and now is the time of thriving and growth.
For our smaller wildlife, such as insects, food is often plentiful at this time of year. The ever popular Ladybird beetle (or just plain Ladybug as it is better known) is busy feeding on juicy aphids that tend to pop up uninvited on my rose bushes and plum trees. Their bright yellow eggs show up as harbingers of the tiny aggressive predatory larva that will emerge and tackle my aphid problem.
Many beautiful native butterflies such as Western Swallowtails, Lorquin’s Admirals and Red Admirals are flitting about, having their last hoorahs. Many species do not survive as adults past fall, having their larva (aka caterpillars) or pupa (aka cocoons) go through the tough times of fall and winter.
Wasps, with their tough reputation, are busy drinking nectar and hunting down other insects while the going is good. As their queen winds down her egg laying, they have more and more free time on their hands, hence the partying at our outdoor parties! None will survive past late fall other than a new queen who will find a safe hiding place for winter and emerge in spring, ready to start a new colony.
By summer, the ducks of Swan Lake are done with child rearing, most ducklings have hatched anywhere from February to June, and are happily dabbling or diving in search of food. Juvenile ducks are looking more like their parents, having lost their downy feathers and developed proper flight feathers that are not shed until the following summer.
The small and mighty hummingbirds are also done having babies with the tiny Rufus hummingbird already preparing for its amazing migration back to Mexico for the winter. Peak sightings of this little jewel are from June to August. Anna’s hummingbirds have decided that the living in Victoria is tolerable given the sheer number of feeders put out by the kind hearted citizens of our city. They too would migrate back to California but we save them the trip!
Many mammals of Swan Lake are at their most visible during the long summer evenings. Muskrat, beaver and especially bats love the dusk as temperatures are cooler and in the case of bats, bugs (their food supply) are out at their fullest! Evening programs at Swan Lake showcase some of the amazing nocturnal adaptations of these and many other nighttime visitors to the Sanctuary.
And as for us humans, summer is a fabulous time to go outside and enjoy nature, at any age. I like to follow the animals lead and enjoy walks early in the morning when it is still cool and the birds are singing, or later evening when the sun is setting and the heat of the day is finally dissipating. Mid-day is for sitting on the patio with a cool drink and snacks or naps!
There is no shortage of nature locations in our fair city from ocean beaches like Gyro Park, Island View beach and Esquimalt Lagoon, cool forests like at Francis King Park and Mt. Douglas Park, and of course soothing wetlands such as Elk/Beaver Lake and Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary. Many Parks and Sanctuaries offer guided walks and programs but simply showing up and enjoying the location on your own is a great option too. Be sure to come prepared with sun protection, water for hydration and lots of snacks if coming with little ones, whether for a guided program or not.
Remember that summer, like all seasons, will come to an end and the easy living shall pass all too soon. Fortunately though, nature has a rhythm of decay and renewal that will begin again and those of us who seek time out in nature are renewed as well. Enjoy.
Renee Cenerini is the Program Manager at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. For a full listing of all the great summer programs at Swan Lake, please visit swanlake.bc.ca.