Updated for 2018
Hot Days and Plenty of Nature
July is generally a very warm, if not downright hot month in Connecticut. It’s not uncommon to see temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s. On such heatwaves it is very important to be prepared and take caution while hiking and visiting the outdoors. Bring extra water, wear sunscreen, and consider saving the more exhausting and long-distance hikes for cooler days or cooler times of the day. While the days may be growing shorter since the summer solstice in June, the days are still long and the early morning and evenings are often cool enough to get some good hiking in.
Looking at the database of species from last year, July is an amazing month for nature watching. Species across the board are in full-swing and there are many sights to see out in the forests on par with some of the best fireworks displays. It seems that every animal loves the heat except humans, so expect to see a lot of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, and insects. Even the fungi and plants are out there putting on an amazing display of color. So make sure to take full advantage of every sunny day that isn’t exceedingly hot and get outside and visit the forests and meadows to see the full experience.
July 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 July. 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.
Gray tree frog
July continues to be an excellent month for birding, which is a mostly stationary hobby, and thus quite suitable for the warmer days. Be sure to keep your eyes open both along the shoreline as well as in the forests and suburban areas.
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 American blusher
Viscid violet cort
Hairy rubber cup
Hemlock varnish shelf
Old man of the woods
July 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.
European paper wasp
Lichens tend to persist all year long, but have a new growth phase in the warmer months.
Common greenshield lichen
As the weather warms-up, and the days grow longer, it may be more common to see typically nocturnal animals out foraging during the daylight.
Mosses tend to be pretty abundant and in new growth during the month of July.
Princess pineground 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.
Eastern purple coneflower
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.
(Agkistrodon contortrix mokasen)
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.
Lion’s mane jellyfish
Atlantic horseshoe crab
With the warm, and often humid weather of July, slime molds tend to be pretty common on rotting logs in the forests and on wood chip piles.
Dog vomit 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.
Tree of heaven
Eastern black walnut
July is one of the most important months for foraging. It is in this month that we begin to see fruits, especially berries in the Rubus genus (blackberries, raspberries), begin to ripen. We also get a much wider variety of wild mushrooms available in the forests including the prized chanterelles, black trumpets, chicken of the woods, and a bunch of other lesser known edible mushrooms. There are also still a number of edible tubers including the crunchy and refreshing Indian cucumber.
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
Warm weather and scattered thunderstorms is going to dictate whether or not you will be able to get outside and do some hiking. If the weather is unpredictable or hot, it’s best to focus on shorter and more rewarding hikes in the shade and not too far from civilization in case you get into trouble. Just be prepared and bring plenty of water and bug spray. Don’t forget to bring along a few plastic bags for cell phones and wallets in case you get stranded in a passing rain storm.
Sleeping Giant State Park is reported to be closed for the summer while they are clearing the trails. There may be closings at other parks as well due to storm damage or trails that are very difficult to pass. So check the location website before going if possible. Also, the shore line of Connecticut contains many local beaches which require a parking permit or entry fee for out of town visitors. Some of the larger state parks along the water, such as Hammonassette, can also get to full capacity with parking, so try to get there early if possible.
Located on the property of the Connecticut Audubon Society is the Larsen Sanctuary. It is a diverse habitat including meadows, swamps, ponds, deciduous and evergreen forests, and generally well maintained hiking trails. It is just the right size to bring the kids along and make a fast exit in case of rain or heat.
Mine Hill Preserve
While I generally do not recommend long and strenuous hikes in the middle of July heat, Mine Hill in Roxbury offers some of the best mushroom experiences this time of year and you should look for a day that is not to hot and make the visit. Plenty of hiking trails and ruins of an old mining system that are fun to explore.
Preparing for August
July and August are fairly similar in regards to nature and the outdoors. The weather is about the same with sometimes oppressive heat and scattered thunderstorms. The days are slowly growing shorter, so August is a good month to focus on getting the most out of the summer evening hikes after work. By mid-September it will start getting dark by 6:30PM, sunset at 7PM, which doesn’t leave much time after the evening commute.
Once again, when hiking in August, make sure to be prepared with extra water, appropriate clothing, sunscreen, bug spray, and plastic bags for electronics in case of a downpour. Ticks and mosquitoes will be out and they present a persistent threat to hikers in Connecticut. It’s not worth the risk, so wear bugspray at all times while outdoors in the woods.
August brings along a few new mushroom species that come later in the summer, and we begin to see the larger fruits on trees such as apples and stone fruits. It still an excellent time for foraging, hiking, and bird watching. We also get a few interesting insects that make their appearances in the later summer months including some very colorful spiders in the meadows as long as you are not an arachnophobe. It should be noted that most spiders in Connecticut are not dangerous. The only ones that should be avoided are black widows (near houses, basements), yellow sac spiders (houses), and wolf spiders (grassy areas), although wolf spiders do not have a dangerous bite, they are just a bit aggressive.
So keep your August calendar open for some exciting times outdoors and stay safe. Happy trails!