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August Nature Notes

posted on 8/4/22

August Nature Note –

Get Ready, Get Set, and GO!

August is always such a hurried month. The race to get ready for school, sprint car races, fairs, last minute vacations, yard work...whew! August is also a labor-intensive winter preparation month for birds and other wildlife.

The Sturgeon Moon will be at its peak on August 11, 2022. It will be the last supermoon of the year. In history – the Algonquin fishing tribes converged on the great lakes and other major bodies of water to fish for sturgeon. These fish were an important part of their survival. Sturgeon are a very “prehistoric” fish that can grow to more than 12 feet long.  In Iowa, although they have been around for millions of years, Lake sturgeon are now rare and endangered. The Pallid sturgeon is also on the endangered specie list. The Shovelnose sturgeon is legal to fish in Iowa. Just be sure to check fishing regulations re: changes and/or restrictions.

Many songbirds are appearing throughout the woodlands, prairies, and edges. Young woodpeckers, cedar waxwings, flickers, bluebirds, mourning doves, and many others are being seen and heard. The American goldfinch (Iowa’s State Bird) nested late July and will continue nesting into August. Many have been seen feeding on seeds from the prairie plants. They rely on the composite flowers like asters, coneflowers, sunflowers, ironweed, goldenrod, and others. It won’t be long before the males begin molting to their winter color plumage.

The young bald eagles are soaring with family members and turkey vultures. Although they can still be a little clumsy and unpredictable, they are getting more confident with their hunting and flying skills.

Prairies are bursting with the colors of yellow, white, and purple. Coreopsis, sweet Black-eyed Susan, Brown-eyed Susan, Cup plant, Compass plant, Rattlesnake master, Ironweed, Swamp milkweed, Whorled milkweed, and many species of sunflowers showing various shades of yellow. The white common boneset will begin to bloom. Many butterflies and insects will visit this blooming plant. Round-headed bushclover is also making quite a show. The tall grasses including, big bluestem, little bluestem, Indiangrass, and side-oats grama are waving their colorful seed heads. The splashes of silvery green of sage make a lovely contrast in any area. The bloom of the white cream gentian can be found along and within the prairies.

The woodland paths and edges have been blooming with mullein foxglove, hog peanut, goldenrod, a small type of lobelia, great blue lobelia, sweet Joe-pye weed, white snakeroot, jewelweed, cup plant, partridge pea, wild lettuce, pokeweed, starry campion, fog fruit, Indian pipe will, hopefully,  appear toward the end of August, and the brilliant red berries from spring’s Jack-in-the-pulpit and Green Dragon are beginning to appear. New England asters, Heath asters and others will also be appearing around woodland and prairies edge. One of the most spectacular plants that will bloom in August is Rose Mallow boasting its large blooms. A very unique native, flower that is blooming along the shorelines of Lake Red Rock is the Monkey flower – it was a new find for me a few years ago but look forward to seeing it along shoreline walks for puddling butterflies. The native, Biennial gaura is also currently blooming. This plant has been located around the Lake Red Rock boat ramps and riverbanks. A very appealing plant to insect pollinators.

The prairies are and will continue to be filled with numerous insect predators and spiders ready to take advantage of the end of the warm season. Webs are being built high, low, and ground level by species of orb weavers, grass spiders, tunneling spiders, and wolf spiders.

The rocky cliffs of Cordova Park will be filled with rough blazing star reaching from the rocks to the sun, numerous species of goldenrod, and flowering spurge.

The wetlands are boasting numerous sedges, arrowhead plant, Pennsylvania smartweed, and the areas that have rich bottom muds may still have blooming American lotus. You never know what you may find in a wetland.

The Monarch butterfly status has reached the “Endangered” level.  The monarchs that are hatching in August are considered the third generation and will be migrating to Mexico in September. Many butterflies have been seen along lake shorelines puddling for nutrients and moisture, prairies, and woodland edge. This month should continue being a good butterfly month. July was one of the better butterfly months that Marion County has seen in a few years (not including the Monarch).  The Red-spotted purple, American Snout, Little Yellow, Dainty sulphur, Clouded and Orange sulphurs, Cabbage white, Gray hairstreak, Bronze copper, E. comma, Variegated and Great spangled fritillary, Checkered skipper, Wild Indigo duskywing, Pearl crescent, E. Tiger swallowtail, Least skipper, Silver-spotted skipper, and black swallowtail.

Some fawns are beginning to fade their camouflaging spots and the velvet covering the bucks antlers will be shedding. Muskrats are beginning to cache their winter food in our wetland areas. Squirrels and nut eaters are locating a wealth of food for the winter as the hickory, oak, and walnut trees are dropping their bounty. We are still seeing young rabbits and squirrels. Most hatch year great horned owls will be sent out on their own. Species of swallows are lining up on the power lines and being seen in large groups. This gathering is in preparation of migration. Some smaller groups of pelicans have arrived at Lake Red Rock to take advantage of the weather as they move southward. Some always appear in August as the shad are abundant. A few shorebirds are appearing within our area also. Several young great-blue herons, great egrets, and green herons are dotting the areas in preparation for movement.

Hundreds of common green darner dragonflies and other types of darners will begin moving later this month. Other dragonflies that may be seen are Widow skimmers, Autumn meadowhawk, Calico pennant, Halloween Pennant, Twelve-spotted skimmers, Band-winged meadowhawks, E. pondhawk, Variegated meadowhawk and, hopefully, many others.

Time to get outside, do a little rain dance and hope for some soaking rains for all! Don’t forget to take to time to observe our outdoor happenings as it will be drastically changing much too soon.