August 2019

A phenology year - summer winding down

Marla Mertz, Marion County Conservation, with Hanah Hefner, Naturalist Tech

What we have seen this past month

Whew, I hope you all made it through the heat we experienced in July 2019. Hopefully, the cool evenings that have finally come at the end of July will continue through August. It has been nice to give the air conditioner a little break and open those windows.

July 16, we saw the Full Buck Moon as the buck’s antlers are in full growth mode. The July 16 moon was when the moon was the most opposite of the sun for the month. The July moon was notable as it will have two new Moons; the first one on July 2 and the second on July 31.

Most songbirds have nested and fledged except Iowa’s State bird that waits until late July to early August to nest. Their cup-shaped nest is made of many plant fibers, thistle down, spider webs, and caterpillar web strands. Their favorite food sources are seeds that come from flowers that we call composites (the head of the flower brings together several tiny florets, so that they look like just one large flower). These types of flowers become more abundant in the late summer, such as sunflowers, coneflowers, asters, chicory, ironweed, black-eyed susans, and goldenrod.

The young bald eagles of the year are being seen trying out their wings and hunting skills. For some, we call this the toddler stage, unpredictable and a little clumsy. It’s great to see the eagle families out and about again.

Wetlands have been celebrating the blooms of arrowhead plant and water lilies. The aquatic life is abundant around these plants, especially the dragons, damsels, butterflies, and frogs.

The prairies are bursting with color as the blazing star, coneflowers, Rattlesnake master, compass plants and black-eyed susans are swaying in the breeze.

The common and purple milkweeds have bloomed and are starting to go to seed. The butterfly weed, whorled and swamp milkweed, and honeyvine are currently blooming within the prairies and roadsides. Monarch eggs and caterpillars are continuing into their second generation.

It has been quite a site with the hatch of the mayflies the latter part of this month. Hundreds gather on buildings, trees, and grasses that surround ponds and lakes.

Numerous butterflies are being spotted around the roadsides, pollinator plots, and grasslands blooming with color. These have been spotted: giant swallowtails, buckeyes, monarchs, painted ladies, red admirals, commas, question marks, little yellows, dainty, clouded and orange sulphurs, cabbage whites, summer azures, Eastern tailed-blues (pictured), coral hairstreak, viceroys, fritillaries, and numerous skippers.

It just wouldn’t be an Iowa summer without fireflies! Whether you refer to them as fireflies or lightning bugs, we all share past experiences of lighting up our childhood past.

It also would not be summer without taking walks along the prairie and woodland edges to find those tasty morsels of blackberries.

A closer look at something from the previous month

Between being the only flying mammal and their ability to use echolocation, bats are certainly unsung superheroes in the natural world. Each night they take flight to keep blood-sucking mosquitoes at bay from overpopulation. That helps us enjoy our time outside without coming back inside itchy.

To dine on mosquitoes and other insects bats use echolocation - sending out ultrasonic sounds and listening to how those sound waves bounce back towards them to see in the dark. Young bats were born in mid-June through July.

Red bats are solitary and often noted as one of the most beautiful bat species in Iowa due to their unique reddish-brown fur. When first born, mother red bats will carry their babies with her wherever she goes. This is typically the only time red bats are found, as mothers will fly low to the ground as they compensate for the extra weight of their babies or pick one back up that has fallen from her back. Red bats often have up to four babies. These mother bats are working hard to catch enough food so they have the strength to care for their young until they’re old enough to be on their own.

What we are expecting to see next month?

August is a very busy month! Be sure to take note of these happenings!

  • The 2019 Perseid meteor showers August 11, 12, and 13.

  • The full moon will be August 15.

  • The month of August brings the labor intensive beginnings of fall and winter preparations for many of our wildlife species:

  • Watch for muskrats preparing their winter food cache (cattails and tubers).

  • Watch for Iowa DNR conservation officers and biologists working on roadside counts of pheasant and quail to gather estimates of their populations.

  • Flocks of swallows will be seen.

  • The hummingbirds will be hitting the feeders and natural areas this month in preparation for migration.

  • Shorebirds are beginning to migrate south.

  • Blue-winged teal and mourning doves begin their migration journey.

  • Watch the areas around Lake Red Rock and other large lakes and reservoirs for migrating pelicans. The young of the year will be moving at any time now.

  • Deer begin shedding the velvet covering their antlers and fawns begin losing their spots.

  • The native tall grasses will begin showing seed and color.

  • The soothing sounds of locusts (cicada’s) peak.

  • Many orb weaver spiders and webs in the woodlands and prairies. They really know how to use their math skills in their web master abilities. (no pun intended)...stay tuned!

An activity to try!

July 20-28, 2019 was National Moth Week! If you like moths and bugs, this is a great activity for families and everyone you know. There is still time to assist with citizen science or just fulfill your need for discovery. Make it fun! There is no time limit to go Moth-ing.

Want to know the difference between a moth and a butterfly? You can even find a photo album of some of Marion County, Iowa’s moths right here on GBE...

Phenology happenings in Marion County, Iowa

As we notice the things in nature that are changing, we'll be adding to this calendar.

Each week a new photo of the woodland creek and the wolf tree will be added to each album! Both of these locations are within Cordova Park. This park is managed by Marion County Conservation.