September Nature Notes from the Naturalist: The month of August was so incredibly busy, if you blinked, there were many things that were missed.
Don’t forget that the Autumnal Equinox occurs at the same moment worldwide on Wednesday, September 22, 2021. This is the astronomical start of the fall season in the Northern Hemisphere and of the spring season in the Southern Hemisphere.
We are going to be seeing many changes during the month of September. Monarch migration has already begun in some parts of Iowa and will continue through the month. If you are out and about, keep your eyes out for groups of monarchs roosting together and congregating for that long trip to Mexico. In observing butterflies this past month, the diversity isn’t what I expected. Monarch and Viceroy butterflies seem to be doing well, but many expectations of Painted ladies, American ladies, Red admirals, buckeyes and a few others, have been absent in their normal areas, or, at least a rarity to observe. With the goldenrod and asters coming on in the grasslands and roadsides, there should be Sulphur’s, skippers, Eastern-tailed blues (which have been observed readily), and, Cabbage whites. White checkered skippers were showing up around mid-August and still noticing them in the dense areas around Lake Red Rock.
Many of Marion County’s “Jungle birds” (neo-tropical migrants) have left the area. There is movement coming in from the North. Hummingbird feeders and jelly for the orioles are needed this month, as their long flight to South America is underway. The first-of-year Osprey and Turkey vultures will be leaving on their journey to Central America following the same routes their parents have always taken to their winter destination. Adults will follow in the month of October, early November. (Magical time). Hawks and other raptors will begin moving into Iowa from the North. I have always referred to the month of September as the “Birds of White” migration with the pelicans, egrets and gulls coming in and moving through. Shorebirds are still moving, waterfowl is moving, the Blue-winged teal and Woodducks are moving this month also.
Prairies, roadsides, and wetlands will still be filled with Predacious insects, i.e., robber flies, dragonflies, grasshoppers, ambush bugs, numerous species of spiders, especially the Orb Weavers, and so on. It is time for insect retirement and these predators will take full advantage. Dragonfly migration will be starting later this month. Hopefully, we will be seeing unique darners, meadowhawks, gliders and many others making their way south. September is always a great month to look for insects and spiders.
Fall orchids and Indian pipe should be showing themselves in their most subtle ways in the woodlands and edges. Indian pipe is a perennial wildflower that lacks chlorophyll, not a fungus.
Numerous mammals will be caching food and beginning to prepare for colder weather. The velvet on the White-tailed deer antlers are currently shedding.
Until next month – have a great September and get outside as much as you can.
Marla Mertz, Naturalist