August begins the turning point of summer. Daylight is noticeably shorter as the month pushes forward leading to an average decrease in temperature. Flocks of blackbirds start to congregate in large numbers, bats begin to disperse from maternity colonies and the first southerly migration of shorebirds begins. Bird offspring now foraging on their own are still dependent on adults to teach them migration routes.
August is a good time to be out at night as the Perseid meteor shower peaks early in the month and is a great opportunity to witness shooting stars while listening to insects.
Late summer marks the end of breeding season for most birds, except for cedar waxwings and American goldfinches, which are hard at work preparing nests and raising young in the heat of the year. The dawn chorus of songbirds such as warblers, flycatchers, tanagers and grosbeaks has quieted, except for red-eyed vireos singing high in the canopy of lush forests. While it seems early, fall migration is already underway, as blackbird flocks gather in fields and shorebirds return to wetlands and marshes as they move south from the Arctic tundra.
The fields and wetlands are alive with the buzzing and fluttering of colorful insects; August is one of the peaks for dragonfly, damselfly and butterfly diversity. Skimmers, darners, bluets, spreadwings, baskettails, saddlebags and other unique odonates are busy foraging on the wing and laying eggs in ponds and lakes. Common buckeyes, one of the most brilliant of butterflies, can be found on sunny paths through meadows. Cicadas, grasshoppers, crickets and katydids fill the afternoons, evenings, and starlit nights with loud serenades.
The rich soil nutrients found in floodplain forests allow some of the tallest wildflowers in Cleveland Metroparks to thrive. Yellows of wingstem, green-headed coneflower and cup plant can grow over 10 feet tall which are highlighted with the lavenders of the shorter wild bergamot and wood sage. These insect pollinated plants are great places to search for predators, such as assassin bugs and crab spiders waiting patiently for their next meal.
Salamander larvae found in rapidly drying vernal pools begin their transition from life in the water to life on land. They leave the pools to forage in the forest leaf litter and soil; one day to return to this same pool to mate and provided life to another generation of salamanders.