When I go for a walk in the park in late August and early September, it seems to me that it's still the height of summer. Plants are green and flowering and growing tall, the sun is shining brightly (especially true in July and August this year!) and, at times, the humidity is oppressive. It certainly seems like high summer to me.

When I go for a walk in the park in late August and early September, it seems to me that it's still the height of summer. Plants are green and flowering and growing tall, the sun is shining brightly (especially true in July and August this year!) and, at times, the humidity is oppressive. It certainly seems like high summer to me.

Well, the insects, the birds and even the plants in the parks know better. They are extra busy right now, winding down the summer season and preparing for winter.

Take insects. You can hardly hear yourself think for all the insect mating calls, which were absent in the early summer. At this time of year, crickets, grasshoppers, cicadas and katydids are busy preparing for reproduction. They've reached adulthood, grown their wings and are filling the air with their familiar chirps and trills as they search for mates.

Anyone who walks along a woodland trail in late summer knows that spiders are particularly active. Webs are everywhere, as spiders are skittering about catching prey and preparing to lay eggs and create egg sacs. Many spider species will die after the egg sacs are complete - these spiders "live on" in the form of their spiderlings that hatch in the spring. Almost all species of spider will die at the first frost.

Spiders are also taking advantage of late summer plants. Their webs catch anything floating through the air, including pollen. Spiders will eat their webs prior to building new ones, thereby "recycling" the old web and ensuring that the tiny pollen grains and insects become part of their dinner.

In August, open fields are ablaze with color - a real contrast to spring when flowers were mostly found along the forest floor. Now, meadows are filled with snowy Queen Anne's lace, purple ironweed and bright yellow goldenrod and black-eyed Susans. This abundance of color attracts bees, butterflies and flower flies, so that the plants are pollinated and can set seed before cold weather arrives.

Other plants are showing signs of preparing for winter. For example, poison ivy leaves, especially in plants that live near the edge of the woods, are starting to turn red, and buckeye trees have dropped most of their leaves and are concentrating their energy on seed production.

In the avian world, some birds have already left Ohio or are preparing to do so. Orioles and other birds are gathering their flocks to ready for migration while shorebirds have already begun their southward journey.

Speaking of birds, hummingbirds are out in huge numbers right now, as the babies are fully fledged and flitting around nectar-laden flowers. These mighty mites will continue to fuel up through October, when they will head south. Once they reach the Gulf of Mexico, they embark on a 550-mile trip across the water that takes about 20 hours of nonstop flying. So keep your feeders full.

Signs of late summer are everywhere in Preservation Parks, including our newest park, Deer Haven Preserve. Visit Deer Haven to gain a sense of how the plants, birds and other animals within the varied habitats -- woodland, pond, meadow and wetland -- are winding down their summer seasons. Or better yet, join us there for an Adult Nature Series hike on Sept. 6 at 10 a.m., led by one of our naturalists.

Deer Haven Preserve is at 4183 Liberty Road in Liberty Township. For information on all eight Preservation Parks, programs and events, visit us as www.preservationparks.com or call (740) 524-8600.

Sue Hagan is public relations specialist for Preservation Parks of Delaware County.

Sue

Hagan