An unmistakable droning sound of tiny wings and squeaky chipping of a ruby-throated hummingbird meant it was nectar time. A lowland cardinal plant’s scarlet, irregularly-shaped bloom was the target, albeit only for a moment.
The female hummer moved in, collected, backed up and visited again.
In collecting nectar, her head brushed the business end of the blooms, where the pollen-laden anther and pollen-receiving pistil’s stigma came together. On to the next bloom, this time dusting pollen on the stigma, gathering anther’s pollen. She could not reach nectar without touching the anthers and stigma, and she was one of a select few with the mechanics to accomplish what the cardinal flower needed.
While this act of nature was working like clockwork, a light breeze blew past, taking some human scent into a nearby woods, alerting a doe, who sounded a low snort alerting other deer, most probably her fawn, too.
A hen turkey, must have heard the deer, too, and yelped to assemble her poults, some of whom sounded their kee-kee call in return.
Summer’s sounds serve purposes we can take advantage of to read what we can’t always see with summer’s great green curtain covering it all for a while longer. The droning sound was the signal to focus on a cardinal bloom, just as a gobble will bring a shotgun pointed near a decoy or a crossbow pinned where a deer is anticipated when the season is right.
For some and for now, some listening is rehearsal.
One sound meant specifically to rattle intruders comes from the timber rattlesnake when we get too close or corner the reptile. If we pass by at a safe distance, why would nature expend the energy and give up a hiding position by vibrating a tail?
With heavy vegetation, summer estimates can be made without hearing a call or sound of the flush of a ruffed grouse or hen turkey.
No flushes, no reason to venture here beginning Sept. 12. Some spring grouse sounds were not monitored this year when surveys were planned, but cut short. Other, lesser, data will appear in the Department of Natural Resources fall forecast pamphlet to be posted on the web site later this month. The usual array of species is chronicled as well as other facts required for a successful outing.
Full consideration of COVID-19’s impacts on hunting, particularly gun deer season, should now be processed, including considering that some less fortunate may desire venison beyond that which a single gift package provides. Deer hunters can make some healthy impressions by purchasing another antlerless authorization and passing that entire registered animal on somewhat like the pay-forward gesture practiced this winter.
Bonus antlerless harvest authorizations are available starting Aug. 17, at 10 a.m. for the Northern and Central Forest (Zone 1). Other regions go on sale at 10 a.m. Aug, 18 (Central Farmland, Zone 2; and 10 a.m. Aug. 19 (Southern Farmland, Zone 2). Beginning at 10 a.m. Aug. 20, remaining bonus authorizations for all zones will begin. Permits may be purchased online or by phone (1-888-936-7463)from DNR Customer Service Representatives. Counter service at all DNR service centers is not available that this time.
Summer sounds have also been used as a "what-can-I-do" activity during COVID-19 slowdowns. Wayne Whitemarsh, Sauk City, started an informal Porch Night with a few close friends to listen and identify dusk and night sounds.
“Bird life is still normal whereas people’s isn’t. Woods' life is still unchanged,” he said. “Listening for and to sounds and identifying them add another dimension to the outdoors and something that fits in perfectly with staying close to home."
Don Martin, at Martin’s in Monroe, reminded that we sometimes use sounds to initiate nature’s sounds, like walking heavy to scare a deer “husking” ears in a field.
Anglers are not oblivious to sounds, either. Now Bret Schultz, Black Earth, is focused on sounds of cicadas - crickets.
“When I hear them, I know small hoppers are around, too. Fish are going to see hoppers and I can start throwing imitations of hoppers and crickets," he said. "It will be some of the best surface trout fishing I am likely to have all season.”
Schultz added that an area stream, where the water was gin-clear, he could watch the entire show. He started throwing hoppers and raised 92 trout in three hours.
Another summer sound is rippling water. With temperatures on the rise, fish will move into oxygenated water created by the ripples, so that’s where Schultz heads when he hears the sound.
“The strikes can be so explosive,” he said. “The fish will sense the fly hitting the surface and come from 6 to 8 feet away when the hopper hits the water. I can see the fish come out from a undercut bank.”
Keep listening. Summer sounds can both calm and assist in enjoying Wisconsin’s nature.