Although the second half of August felt pretty miserable due to heat and humidity, and we’re glad it’s over, the first half fit the rest of this summer’s trend in being cool and comfortable. Rainfall was below average, also continuing summer’s trend, but not desperately so, and it was reasonably spread out through the month.
Featured insect of the month: Dung beetle! Eric found this specimen in the goat water bucket one morning, and he thought it had drowned, so he brought it back to the house. It revived, so Joanna took a picture and brought it back out to the field. She released it, expecting it to scurry away quickly. It chose a slightly unexpected escape route: straight down. In a matter of minutes, it burrowed out of sight, which is one of the reasons this is such an exciting find. Dung beetles burrow, aerating the soil, and enhance the organic matter of the soil with the dung that they bury. This is only the third dung beetle we’ve seen here, but we’d love to have a healthy breeding population. (The others that we saw showed up when the ground was rock hard from drought, not good timing for dung beetles.) One of the reasons we go to such trouble to try to manage our goats without chemical dewormers is that we want our goat dung to be dung-beetle friendly, so that the farm can benefit from the soil enhancement services that these interesting beetles provide.
Featured reptiles of the month: Left: Five-lined Skink. Right: Juvenile snake that we think might be a Yellow-bellied Racer. Can anyone confirm? Featured lepidopterans of the month: Left: Silver-spotted Skipper. Right: Clover Looper Moth. The citizen science website, Butterflies and Moths of North America, provided identification of the moth. The site allows for submission of photos with date & location information, and lepidopterists provide id confirmation & assistance. Sort of like ebird for butterflies/moths.
Two species of blister beetles, an obnoxious pest. We haven’t had any emergency outbreaks this year, but they have been around at a low level, particularly feeding on favored food such as Swiss chard.
Moisture lovers of the month: Left: Indian Pipe, an unusual plant that doesn’t photosynthesize but instead relies on soil fungi for energy. We saw the first specimens in late August, and we’ve been seeing more in the woods into September. This is the first year we’ve observed these here, and we’re guessing that the reasonably regular rain we’ve had this summer has something to do with their appearance. (We’ll both forever associate these with geological fieldwork in Pennsylvania, where we saw lots of these in a very wet summer.) Right: Southern Leopard Frog, of which we’ve seen lots this year. Perhaps they were to credit a long period of relatively low squash bug populations? Joanna has seen a toad eat a squash bug, and we’ve repeatedly seen frogs near squash plantings. (And frogs that appear to be well fed, at that.)
Mystery mushroom of the month: This large mushroom showed up right at the end of the month on a dead oak tree on a north slope near the stream. It’s gilled with a short stalk, asymmetric cap, uneven edges, and an upper surface covered in stiff hairs (right photo). Spores are white/cream. Haven’t found a match in the mushroom books we have. Any ideas?
Other notes: We saw Monarch Butterflies fairly routinely throughout the month. Adults, eggs, and caterpillars all observed, especially in relation with Common Milkweed. No pupae found yet. Horseflies were aggravating in August; the hot weather really seems to correlate with their maximum activity. Our maximum one-person, one-day kill count was 38 on August 31.
Pretty typical month here, although it’s unusual to have recorded no hawks of any kind. Kingfishers have also been oddly & notably absent for most of the year. We felt that general activity really picked up in the last week or so, with things like Goldfinches, Cardinals, Chickadees, and more becoming a lot more active and noticeable. Early migration is also underway, with a nice mixed flock of warblers and vireos showing up a few days into September. If such a flock moved through a few days beforehand, it could have changed our reports considerably.
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