Updated for 2018
Heat Waves, Thunderstorms, and Mushrooms Everywhere
August tends to be a very hot month in Connecticut, and often includes some pretty fierce thunderstorms and heatwaves, often alternating between the two. While these two weather factors can ruin a nice day hike, they seem have the opposite effect when it comes to the proliferation of mushrooms in the forests. This tends to be the best time of the year to find a wide array of colorful, edible, and exotic mushroom species of all kinds. Colors can range the full spectrum from bright purple to even green. So if you’re into mycology or mushroom foraging, this is the month for you.
The insect world also tends to go pretty crazy as well with the continuance of colorful butterflies and beetles all being very busy in the wildflower meadows and gardens. While there are still plenty of flowers to see in the month of August, at the end of August it is the beginning of the end of the wildflower seasons. Pretty soon even the hardy goldenrods will turn brown and we will be heading into autumn. But fear not, there is still much time to enjoy it all and September will not disappoint.
August Species of Interest
We have picked-out a few species from each category that we think are important to look for and be aware of in the month of August. While there are many more species out there, this list should acquaint you with what you are most likely to see outside. For the sake of keeping it interesting, we generally skip-over most the year-round species unless relevant.
All of the common amphibians should be visible including the green and bullfrogs, pickerel frogs, toads. But be on the lookout for small grey tree frogs clinging to plants near ponds. Despite the name, they are actually often green instead of grey. And even though we are far from spring, the noisy spring peepers can be abundant in the month of August.
Gray tree frog
Northern Spring Peeper
(Pseudacris crucifer crucifer)
August being another hot month, most of the birding is best along the shoreline and near bodies of water in general, as well as near the flower meadows and suburban areas. The reason is pretty straightforward: It is where the majority of their food lives. Insects are active near the wildflowers and crustaceans and fish along the shoreline. What is means from a photography standpoint is that you should prepare your camera equipment according to what you intend to look for as mushrooms are not as often found in abundance in the same habitats as the birds.
Great blue heron
(Ardea herodias herodias)
July is an excellent month for fungi. They tend to be abundant, especially a day or two after a good rain storm. The come in all varietys of colors including reds, purples, yellows, and even green. It’s also an excellent time to start looking for the edible chanterelles and black trumpet mushrooms.
Eastern North American destroying angel
Cross-veined troop mushroom
August has an abundance of butterflies, beetles, wasps and insects of all kinds. You will mostly find them out with the flowers in the meadows and gardens, and many of them can be a pest at picnics.
American dagger moth
Black and yellow garden spider
Milkweed tussock caterpillar
Beech blight aphid
Large milkweed bug
Northern paper wasp
Great spangled fritillary
Great golden digger wasp
Lichens tend to persist all year long, but have a new growth phase in the warmer months.
Smooth rock tripe
British soldiers lichen
In august you will mostly see the more common species such as squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and deer, often feeding in residential areas. Also the occasional bear, coyote, or fox wandering out from the forests in search of food, often near unprotected trash bins.
Mosses tend to be pretty abundant and growing during the month of August.
Tree ground pine
There are a ton of plants and wildflowers in full bloom during the month of July. We’ve selected a few for you here.
(Ampelopsis glandulosa var. brevipedunculata)
Queen Anne’s lace
Hollow Joe-Pye weed
Water Lily “Attraction”
(Nymphaea x Attraction)
The warm weather brings out a lot of snakes in the forest, often near bodies of water, and turtles basking on logs and rocks in the ponds.
Eastern garter snake
(Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis)
Northern black racer
(Coluber constrictor constrictor)
Eastern painted turtle
(Chrysemys picta picta)
The warm summer months tend to bring a lot of activity to the shoreline. Here are some of the more common species.
Atlantic marsh fiddler crab
With the warm, and often humid weather of August, slime molds tend to be pretty common on rotting logs in the forests and on wood chip piles.
Dog vomit slime
Red raspberry slime
Some fruit bearing trees, such as mulberry, begin to ripen and become alive with a wide variety of birds. Squirrels and chipmunks will also be active in the trees as well.
Foraging in August in Connecticut revolves a lot around mushrooms since this is generally the peak time for the best ones. We get chicken-of-the-woods, chanterelles, black trumpets, and a variety of other edible but lesser known species. We also start to see fruits forming on the trees and there are still usually a few blackberries and other Rubus species to be found, but only for the early part of the month as the birds will have gotten most of them. Many edible plants are still around including Indian cucumbers, purslane, and a few lesser known tubers which often grow near ponds and lakes.
During the foraging seasons, we are going to continue to post these reminders:
- Be mindful of the rules and regulations of parks and recreation areas when foraging. Many places in Connecticut do not allow it. However an act was authorized on March 14, 2017, authorizing the taking of mushrooms from state parks and state property.
- Ticks are out, and digging in the dirt will likely bring them onto you. Wear bug spray, long pants, long socks, and protect yourself.
- Take only what you intend to use. Be mindful to never decimate an area.
- Avoid collecting from roadsides, waste areas, or other potententially contaminated places.
- Proper identification is critical. If there is the slightest doubt, do not consume.
Important Foraging Species
Old man of the woods
Just as the month of July was warm with scattered thunderstorms, so tends to be August. So watch the weather carefully when planning for hikes. Always a good idea to bring extra water on hot days and some plastic bags for cell phones, cameras, and electronics in-case you get caught in a downpour. It is also a good month to stay in the shade so maybe save the mountain peaks for the spring and fall months and spend August in the forests and meadows where most of the action happens anyway. As already mentioned, August is an excellent month for mushrooms. Both for foraging and for looking at the colorful and exotic displays. It’s also a good reminder of caution to never ingest a mushroom you can’t identify 100%. If you have to ask, don’t eat it. This is a time of the year that some of the deadliest mushrooms emerge.
Sleeping Giant State Park is still closed for repairs as far as I know. I also recommend shorter and safer hikes during the hot days. It’s also fun to drive along the shore line looking for interesting birds that come during these months. Get out, walk around a bit, and then back into the car with air conditioning. Some of our best photos of shorebirds were taken from inside the comfort of a car.
New Canaan Nature Center
New Canaan, CT
The New Canaan Nature Center is an excellent spot for a warm summer day or a short walk. It offers a variety of habitats including flower meadows, an orchard, forest, swamp, two ponds, and a nice boardwalk and birdwatching posts. You can pretty much see everything here even if you only have a short amount of time.
Naugatuck State Forest
Naugatuck State Forest is a much more intensive hike, so save it for a cooler day and bring plenty of water. Also, there was lots of storm damage so some trails may be blocked. That aside, it’s an excellent spot to get deep into the forest for some real mushroom hunting as well as wildflowers along the power line trail.
Preparing for September
September tends to be on the warm side as well. It’s not quite fall yet but there begins a noticeable decline in wildflowers, and the fruits and nuts on the trees begin to swell. It is the first month where you have to accept that you are at the tail-end of summer and make the most of it while the weather is still warm.
This is your month to get out there and hit the forests and pay close attention to the little things like small wildflowers, scattered fungi, and the creatures of the forest that are still quite active. Their breeding season has ended, their young have been mostly weaned, and they have their minds on the coming fall and the gathering of nuts and fruits. Since the foliage tends to start turning yellow and the flowers slowly fade away, it’s a good time to make sure you have a good variety of camera lenses available so you can switch from photographing mushrooms to birds, as the weather and landscape dictates.
We usually get some reasonable cooler (70s-80s) days in September so this a good last month to get in some of the bigger hikes. If you’ve been out there all summer getting exercise, you might be in better shape for longer and more strenuous hikes. So this is your bucket list month to get as much done as possible and as long as you stay safe, go a little further than before and make sure you really do some exploring. Who knows what you will find.