Natural Peterborough: July

Well, summer is officially on in full swing, and tree planters like myself are usually back or on their way (unless they are picking up extra summer contracts). High school and public schools are also wrapped up, which means summer camps and employment are getting full and busy.

In all your money-making and travels don’t forget to stop and look around at the awesome wildlife around you. We are fortunate to live in such a diverse area for birds, frogs, etc.

This month in the evening you will notice that in general birds are louder and longer in their songs. The trees and bushes in Peterborough and surrounding area are full of swallows, red-winged black birds, common grackles, veeries, wood thrushes and hermit thrushes.

Some who live or work in more rural area will have seen or will see many swallows nesting in barns—they have a mildly frightening tendency of diving at people when their young are still small before they move on. They are actually pretty birds to look at, though many farmers and rural dwellers find them to be an irritation.


There are 83 different species of swallow within 19 genus. The primary ones seen in our area are the barn swallow, which are blue on their back and head with a distinct, long forked tail, and a chestnut breast and belly. They are now a threatened species.

July is the midpoint of migratory birds being at their peak population. Many of the young birds are grown and have learned to fly. The rest of this month is spent strength building, and some birds will start to depart in their fall migration by the end of the month.

Roadside and wetland flowers are also at their peak of diversity and colour. There are many back roads in Peterborough where a good bike ride could lead you to see many of the colourful flowers growing in ditches and the like.

Though picking wildflowers can be great fun, and fill your homes with great scents and sights, be careful what you are picking. Water lilies die when you pick them and there is a fine for each one you pick. Milkweed smell delightful, but Monarch butterflies (which are a depleting species) eat it as their sole diet.

As a tree planter, dragon flies have become my Number One favourite insect (because they eat six to ten times their body weight in other insects, usually of the biting variety), and they are at their peak population. There are 5000 known dragon and damselfly species, and experts guess there are probably between 5500-6500 species in total.


Dragonflies are different from damselflies in that their wings do not narrow at the base; the forewings and hind wings differ in shape and, when they are resting, their wings are usually spread. They have the most beautiful clear but sectioned wings that have a shimmery iridescent quality to them, their bodies also come in the most interesting variety of colours. They are often found near water; ponds, lakes, canals, rivers etc. but can also be found just flying about as they can go long distances.