If you didn’t notice….this summer was a hot one! Maybe you were visiting relatives on either pole? Maybe you were fortunate enough to not have to go anywhere and sit within the confines of air conditioning? For the rest of the USA…July was one to remember and one for the record books.
July actually broke all the records; it was the hottest July and hottest month in American history…that is all the way back to 1895 when we started keeping track of all these types of things. Now the old timers…and I mean our Octogenarians that are out there will remember that the 30’s were noteworthy for many reasons. 1936 has now been moved to second place all time; replacing it was July of 2012 as our average temperature in the lower 48 states peaked out at 77.6 degrees, two-tenths more than 1936. If you talk to our older folks they will tell you that they didn’t think the record heat of the dust-bowl would ever be topped…but here we were, all of us broiling in the summer sun.
As I have already mentioned in a previous column of mine, Vickie and I left for Missouri and Arkansas to camp and fish on June 28th. We left late in the afternoon and crossed Illinois and into Missouri in heat that was well over 100 hundred degrees…with some reports along our way as high as 109! At that point I thought it was hot and dry here in Indiana; it wasn’t until we crossed from I-44 to US 65 south of Springfield that I came to grips with what a real drought looked like. The next few days as we left Branson and headed south and west into Arkansas I actually couldn’t believe what I was seeing. There wasn’t anything green…now this isn’t an exaggeration. The road ditches didn’t even have any green weeds! The color of the trip was brown bordering onto a shade of tan. Without question had a fire started anywhere with any amount of wind…it would have raged for hundreds of miles.
If you think you have had it bad…remember that nature doesn’t get too many choices; our animals are recipients of the hot and dry weather and it is very stressing on them…both indirectly (long term) or directly (short term). I fished in water in Arkansas that last year was ten feet deep and I could easily get my float tube over and around most of the area; this summer was so dry that some of the water was less than 10 inches deep in spots. The large boulders that had so many fish last year were exposed and it doesn’t take much to understand that these fish had to move to find deeper pools of water with higher contents of oxygen. I was inconvenienced…but the fish were certainly put in a situation of life and death and my fear is that many have died, be it from water temperature or the fact that there was so much competition for food in a relatively small space that their weights have dwindled and long term may parish.
Switching gears; I have seen several sets of hen turkeys and chicks in the past two weeks and from all appearances they have done well. One group had 2 or 3 hens and I counted 17 Jakes and Jennies that were quite able and ready for flight as they buzzed across the road. The next day I was on a local creek when I witnessed one hen and 7 chicks; they didn’t know I was around and flew from a ledge across the creek, landed and then shuffled off into the weeds, probably looking for hoppers and other large bugs that are full of protein.
It may take some time to see the fallout from these few months of hot/dry weather. Often critters that are stressed and survive have issues further down the road, into winter, when they don’t have the body fat they need to carry on. Oddly enough this came on the heels of one of the warmest winters on record and officially the warmest 12 month period on record…July was 3.3 degrees above the average 20th century temperatures. I guess we are in a wait and see situation…but I certainly hope that our upcoming winter isn’t severe, adding additional stress to already weakened populations.
By the way…this Friday, August 31st is a Blue Moon. I know you have all grown up with the adage of something happening “Once in a Blue Moon”…this Friday you can use it for real. A Blue Moon is actually a second full moon in the same month and obviously doesn’t happen too often. Here is a proverb from 1528 that you might remember in the future…” If they say the moon is blue, we must believe it is true”!
I hope I am not jumping the gun too soon…but it looks like we have survived the worst of the heat, congratulations. I hope you can get out this fall and enjoy the pleasant temperatures, mow your yard a few times, hunt, fish, camp, etc….and simply Enjoy the Great Outdoors.