Summer is thought of as the season of sunlight and possibilities.
Meteorologists in the Upper Midwest tell us summer arrived on the first day of June, which marks the beginning of what historically are the 92 warmest days of the year.
Astronomers have us wait until the summer solstice (this year, June 20 at 10:32 p.m.) for summer to begin. That is when Earth's orbit is positioned so that the north polar end of its axis leans at the full 23-½ degree angle toward the sun, providing constant daylight to all parts of the Earth north of the Arctic Circle. On that day we in the Twin Cities area will have 15 hours and 37 minutes of sunlight. We have 11 minutes less daylight Friday, by comparison.
The long daylight periods of June affects all people and helps create a sense of well-being. Summer is the season for repairing human perspective, for discovering once again that there are forces or rhythms at work to make life possible. It seems that all living things in our temperate zone, as if conscious of the limitations of the growing season, are forcing themselves to grow and renew. Every forest, every prairie, every wetland, every roadside ditch, and every backyard is rich in green abundance.
Oxeye daisy, double peonies and tall bearded irises bloom nicely. Honeybees and other pollinators forage on patches of white clover blooming in lawns. The first broods of young northern cardinals and eastern bluebirds leave their nests. Bald eagles feed their offspring fish from waters near their nests. Trumpeter swan eggs hatch after close to 35 days of incubation, and the cygnets swim away with their parents. White-tailed deer fawns still arriving.
Turtles have begun coming up on dry land to lay eggs. Females use the hind feet to dig out a hole as deep as their feet can reach. The two most common turtle species in Minnesota, the snapping turtle and the painted turtle, lay 20 to 40 eggs and four to 10 eggs, respectively, at a rate of about two per minute. After the eggs are laid she covers them with soil. Most turtles try to make the finished nest look as natural as possible so that it will not attract the attention of raccoons and other predators. Many of us, including Val Rukavina of the Hopkins area, have observed molested turtle nests and eggs eaten by raccoons. Val sprays the soil on top of turtle nests with mosquito or any outside spray with scent to deter raccoons. The turtle departs when egg-laying is done. She plays no further role.
The time it takes for bird eggs to hatch is quite exact. For example, incubation is typically 29 days for common loon eggs, and Baltimore oriole eggs commonly hatch in 13 days. They are kept warm by a warm-blooded parent bird. Turtles are coldblooded and so cannot provide warmth for the eggs, which are warmed by the surrounding earth and sunlight. The time it takes for them to hatch is varies, sometimes as much as two to three months. The hatchling turtles then are on their own to find a lake or wetland and fend for themselves.
Jim Gilbert taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.