The August Report

Vista

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.

Amphibians

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
(Hyla versicolor)

Northern Spring Peeper
(Pseudacris crucifer crucifer)

Eastern Newt
(Notophthalmus viridescens)

Birds

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)

Least sandpiper
(Calidris minutilla)

Green heron
(Butorides virescens)

Pileated woodpecker
(Dryocopus pileatus)

Wood thrush
(Hylocichla mustelina)

Snowy egret
(Egretta thula)

Laughing gull
(Leucophaeus atricilla)

Black-and-white warbler
(Mniotilta varia)

Red-eyed vireo
(Vireo olivaceus)

Fungi

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
(Amanita bisporigera)

Black bulgar
(Bulgaria inquinans)

Prettymouth puffball
(Calostoma cinnabarinum)

Purple-spored puffball
(Calvatia cyathiformis)

Frost’s bolete
(Exsudoporus frostii)

Chicken-of-the-woods
(Laetiporus sulphureus)

Orange mycena
(Mycena leaiana)

Jack-o’-lantern
(Omphalotus illudens)

Sharp-scaly Pholiota
(Pholiota squarrosoides)

Green-cracking russula
(Russula parvovirescens)

Violet-grey bolete
(Tylopilus plumbeoviolaceus)

Cross-veined troop mushroom
(Xeromphalina kauffmanii)

Insects

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
(Acronicta americana)

Black and yellow garden spider
(Argiope aurantia)

Brown-hooded owlet
(Cucullia convexipennis)

Milkweed tussock caterpillar
(Euchaetes egle)

Beech blight aphid
(Grylloprociphilus imbricator)

Hummingbird clearwing
(Hemaris thysbe)

Two-striped grasshopper
(Melanoplus bivittatus)

Large milkweed bug
(Oncopeltus fasciatus)

Northern paper wasp
(Polistes fuscatus)

Japanese beetle
(Popillia japonica)

Great spangled fritillary
(Speyeria cybele)

Great golden digger wasp
(Sphex ichneumoneus)

Lichens

Lichens tend to persist all year long, but have a new growth phase in the warmer months.

Reindeer lichen
(Cladonia rangiferina)

Smooth rock tripe
(Umbilicaria mammulata)

British soldiers lichen
(Cladonia cristatella)

Mammals

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.

White-tailed deer
(Odocoileus virginianus)

Eastern chipmunk
(Tamias striatus)

Eastern cottontail
(Sylvilagus floridanus)

Mosses

Mosses tend to be pretty abundant and growing during the month of August.

Common haircap
(Polytrichum commune)

Tree ground pine
(Lycopodium dendroideum)

Groundcedar
(Diphasiastrum complanatum)

Plants

There are a ton of plants and wildflowers in full bloom during the month of July. We’ve selected a few for you here.

White baneberry
(Actaea pachypoda)

Porcelain berry
(Ampelopsis glandulosa var. brevipedunculata)

Swamp milkweed
(Asclepias incarnata)

Bull thistle
(Cirsium vulgare)

Jimsonweed
(Datura stramonium)

Queen Anne’s lace
(Daucus carota)

Hollow Joe-Pye weed
(Eutrochium fistulosum)

Cardinal flower
(Lobelia cardinalis)

Indian pipe
(Monotropa uniflora)

Water Lily “Attraction”
(Nymphaea x Attraction)

American pokeweed
(Phytolacca americana)

Tufted knotweed
(Polygonum caespitosum)

Reptiles

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)

Sea Creatures

The warm summer months tend to bring a lot of activity to the shoreline. Here are some of the more common species.

Channeled whelk
(Busycotypus canaliculatus)

Red-beard sponge
(Microciona prolifera)

Atlantic marsh fiddler crab
(Uca pugnax)

Slime Molds

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
(Fuligo septica)

Wolf’s milk
(Lycogala epidendrum)

Red raspberry slime
(Tubifera ferruginosa)

Trees

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.

Honey locust
(Gleditsia triacanthos)

Tulip poplar
(Liriodendron tulipifera)

Crabapple
(Malus genus)

American sycamore
(Platanus occidentalis)

Shining sumac
(Rhus copallinum)

Black locust
(Robinia pseudoacacia)

Foraging Tips

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

Red chanterelle
(Cantharellus cinnabarinus)

Smooth chanterelle
(Cantharellus lateritius)

Black trumpet
(Craterellus fallax)

Black-staining polypore
(Meripilus sumstinei)

Oyster mushroom
(Pleurotus ostreatus)

Old man of the woods
(Strobilomyces strobilaceus)

Chicken-of-the-woods
(Laetiporus sulphureus)

Indian cucumber
(Medeola virginiana)

Common purslane
(Portulaca oleracea)

Common evening-primrose
(Oenothera biennis)

Green-cracking russula
(Russula parvovirescens)

Giant puffball
(Calvatia gigantea)

August Hikes

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
Oxford/Bethany, CT

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.

Happy trails!

Comments are closed.