Bird list & other natural events, August 2013

August was our third dry month in a row, and with the rising heat by the end of the month it really began to feel like a flashback to last year’s brutal summer. Overall it was a remarkably stable month in terms of weather; very little variation in temperature, few notable weather systems: it was like farming in California, for better and for worse. The days just quietly passed by, crops grew like crazy, and the natural world puttered along. Horseflies grew really intense toward the end of the month, with Joanna killing 42 in one evening’s session of field work, and Eric multiple times killing 4 in one blow on the pigs’ backs.


By the end of this month, drought became a serious reality for those of us near and north of the Missouri River. The map above (from the AHPS website) shows the percent average rainfall for the past month, with a black dot added for our location. Placing us at 25-50% average rainfall is accurate, as we received 1.92″ this month, about 44% of the average total of 4.36″. It’s worse than it sounds, though, because:

  1. All that rain fell within the first 11 days of August, with none since,
  2. It got a LOT hotter over the last 10 days, exacerbating soil moisture loss,
  3. This is the third straight month we’ve been well below average rainfall (July 62% average, June 42% average).

If we hadn’t just gone through last year’s far worse drought (less rain for longer, much higher heat overall), we’d be especially worried. As it is, this is causing us minor problems and creating work juggling irrigation needs. Like last year, the summer crops continue to produce well and disease/pest issues are relatively light. Also like last year, the biggest impacts are on workload and quality of life for the vegetable farmer, and on our long-term planning and management choices with regards to pastures, animals, and more.

We apparently took a lot of interesting photos in August:

August_natural_2Left: A basket of chanterelles, the first we’ve found on the farm. Right: Some kind of bolete. August_natural_3Very attractive and cooperative Eastern Garter Snake in the field. Usually these are pretty aggressive about handling, but this one was happy to pose. We live in a zone where two subspecies intergrade; the other subspecies, the Red-Sided Garter Snake, has also been present here.  August_natural_4Beautiful ground beetle, the Fiery Searcher, Calosoma scrutator. This is a good predator that reportedly eats caterpillars. The jaws look pretty strong, though a trip into the refrigerator slowed this beetle down enough to photograph it without being bitten. August_natural_5Left: A Cone-Headed Katydid (not sure which species). Right: Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly.August_natural_6Mystery critter of the month: Anyone know what this is? Joanna found two of these within a couple of days. They’re spheroidal mud/straw cases enclosing a reddish immature insect. Both cases were found on the ground, one while transplanting and the other near the base of a compost pile.

Birds were pretty tranquil this month, as is often the case.

RECORDED IN AUGUST (37 species, 3 new relative to July, 9 unobserved since July).

Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
Wild Turkey: The flock with young has still been around, but we’ve seem them less frequently lately.
Mourning Dove
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
Barred Owl
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (seen twice, somewhat unusual for us)
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great-Crested Flycatcher
Red-Eyed Vireo
White-Eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tufted Titmouse
Black-Capped Chickadee
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Wood Thrush
Brown Thrasher
Northern Parula
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow-Breasted Chat
Summer Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow
Brown-Headed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
Eastern Kingbird (seen a couple times in mid-August)

2 thoughts on “Bird list & other natural events, August 2013

  1. The mystery insect looks a lot like something a friend of mine found on one of her potted plants. She didn’t know what it was either. Let me know if you identify it.

  2. I emailed the folks at the “Your Wild Life” blog, and they narrowed it down to the pupa of either a Rove Beetle (Staphylinidae) or a Ground Beetle (Carabidae). To narrow it down from there, we’d need to see what the adult looks like.

    Unfortunately, the id is going to remain a mystery for now. I stashed the pupa in a jar after photographing it, but I failed to put a lid on (blame the busy summer). When I went back to check on it, the pupa was gone, though the mud case remains. So, it seems that the mystery beetle pupa can survive being removed from its case and emerge to adulthood. Next time I find one I’ll make sure to keep it in something that will confine it after this happens. If anyone else finds one, let us know if you get an adult to emerge!