August 21 - 31
Racine has 13 hours and 12 minutes of daylight and Superior has 13 hours and 23 minutes of daylight at the end of the period. Southern Wisconsin loses 30 minutes of daylight and northern Wisconsin has 34 minutes less than the previous period. August 29 is the full moon. Names for this full moon (Grain, Wort, Ricing, Dog Day, and Berry) depend upon cultural tradition.
Barrens grasshoppers: Grasshoppers are most closely associated with grasslands, but also occur in wetlands and a few in forests. As a group, they have one generation per year. Adult grasshoppers are best observed between June and October with a peak in late summer. Males use a variety of mechanisms to attract females. Stridulation is one method that involves drawing the hind leg across the wing to make sound. Crepidation is the crackling of the wings when they take flight. Other methods are flashing wings and displaying the color of the legs.
Sand barrens, dry prairies and savannas, gravelly terrace slopes and even bare gravel areas along the major rivers are habitats seldom visited by naturalists. These habitats hold an incredible diverse of grasshopper species, especially several rarely found in any other habitat. Places such as sandy and outwash terraces along the lower Wisconsin and lower Chippewa Rivers are outstanding for rare grasshoppers. Sandy barrens in the central sand plains and dry prairie bluffs along the Mississippi River are also great. Some of the species that can be found in these habitats in late summer are:
Club-horned grasshopper is found sparingly in dry grasslands.
White-whiskered grasshopper inhabits sand barrens and sand prairies, especially those with active sand blows.
Velvet-striped grasshopper is found in native prairies.
Two-striped slant-faced grasshopper lives in oak savannas.
Obscure grasshopper occupies dry prairie remnants.
Spotted-winged grasshopper is found in dry prairies and pastures.
Pasture grasshopper lives in many types of grassland including native prairies.
Bunchgrass grasshopper prefers bluff and sand prairies, but can also be found in pine barrens and weedy roadsides.
Handsome grasshopper is restricted to high bluff prairies in the far southwest part of the state.
Spotted bird grasshopper inhabits sand barrens, sand blows, river terraces, and dry prairie.
Northern wingless grasshopper is known from pine barrens.
Post oak grasshopper is another species with limited range, being found only in oak woods and barrens in the central sands.
Purple-striped grasshopper lives exclusively on dry prairie and sand barrens associated with major rivers.
Western grass-green grasshopper has been found only at The Nature Conservancy’s Spring Green Preserve.
Narrow-winged sand grasshopper prefers sand prairies, dunes, and oak barrens.
Little pasture grasshopper occupies many habitats and is found in dry prairies.
Dawson’s grasshopper is most easily found in reconstructed prairies.
Huckleberry grasshopper prefers barrens communities with jack pine, blueberry, and sweet fern.
Red-legged grasshopper is very common living in many habits, including the sandy barrens.
Blue-legged grasshopper is a microhabitat specialist living only at the apex of sand blows in dunes or sand barrens.
Sandbar grasshopper prefers sand blows and dry sand prairie and is found along major rivers.
Gladston’s grasshopper is best located on cobble flats along the lower Chippewa River.
Keeler’s grasshopper is found in sand barrens, dry prairie and oak openings.
Migratory grasshopper is widespread and found in many grassland habitats including barrens.
Stone’s grasshopper is a rare species with only two known locations in the state, the Bauer-Brockway Barrens State Natural Area and Point Beach State Forest.
Walsh’s grasshopper is a species of pine-oak barrens.
Large-headed grasshopper has been found only on dry prairies and river terrace sand prairies.
Speckled rangeland grasshopper lives on any gravelly soil including sand prairies, dunes, and Lake Superior sand spits.
Red-winged grasshopper prefers sandy to gravel soils in dry prairies.
Spring yellow-winged grasshopper is abundant and found in virtually any grassland including higher quality prairies. Adults are active from April to July.
Autumn yellow-winged grasshopper is closely associated with black oak with adults active from July to October.
Carolina locust is one of our most common and recognizable species. It is found in virtually every disturbed area in the state including sand barrens.
Coral-winged grasshopper lives in sandy uplands and old fields.
Long-horned grasshopper is closely associated with sand blows along the lower Chippewa and Wisconsin rivers.
Boll’s grasshopper is found on prairie margins and in savannas and dunes.
Mottled sand grasshopper prefers open sandy soils with sparse vegetation.
Northern marbled grasshopper lines in jack pine and oak barrens.
Kiowa grasshopper is found only in oak barrens.
Lake Huron locust is an endangered species found only on lake dunes in Door County.
Seaside grasshopper found commonly along the sandy and gravel shores of the lower Wisconsin and Chippewa Rivers and beaches at Kohler-Andrae State Park and nowhere else.
The common names of grasshoppers used according to the Guide to Grasshoppers of Wisconsin, Kathryn Kirk and Charles Bomar, Wisconsin DNR publication, 2005.
Velvet Ants: The same extremely dry, sparsely vegetated dunes and sand blows, where many rare grasshoppers are found, the naturalist should also look for velvet ants. These critters are called velvet ants, but they are actually wingless wasps. They are parasitic on solitary bees and wasps also found in the sand. They locate a burrow, even if it's covered and attack the host or guardian of eggs and cocoons. Once past the adults, they lay an egg, which rapidly hatrches and attaches to and consumes the host.
Migrating flycatchers: August is normally proclaimed by non-birders as not being fall. Birders, however, are profoundly aware that August signals the commencement of the mass exodus of innumerable migrants. Shorebirds are in full migratory mode. Swallows gather in immense flocks, many times sagging power lines. Blackbirds begin their waving flock behavior at dusk. Seldom mentioned among birders is the peak of migration for four flycatcher species.
The Olive-sided Flycatcher nests in northern Wisconsin, therefore it’s not clear if all the birds seen in the north are migrants of residents. Our resident numbers are small, which gives credence to reports of migrating birds seen away from their nesting bogs. Similar statements can be made regarding Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, which nest in conifer swamps.
Movements of Great-crested Flycatcher and Eastern Kingbird can be more confusing. Both these species nest in more varied habitats throughout the state. Great-crested Flycatchers are found in upland forested situations. Eastern Kingbird prefers old fields forest edges and fencerows.
Ebird data collection, storage, and analyses have the capability to add more clarity to this phenomenon. Reviewing the ebird data for the aforementioned four flycatchers for the past years concludes with little controversy, these four flycatcher species migrate mostly in August. The frequency and high numbers recorded and analyzed by ebird define the peak.
Olive-sided Flycatchers numbers build slowly through August. Peak numbers are the week of August 22 and drops fast after September 1 with hardly any birds after September 8. Yellow-bellied Flycatcher is very similar with the peaks and the rapid decline, but a smattering of individuals hangs on until late September. Great-crested Flycatcher is relatively high for the entire month of August with a peat again on the week of August 22, and a rapid decline thereafter with almost all birds gone by September 10. Eastern Kingbird has similar pattern as the great-crested, but leaves much more rapidly after September 1.
Eastern Kingbirds have the capacity to be an easy bird to document during its August migration. They are rather conspicuous and tend to concentrate on fences and power lines making for an easy roadside search. Many years ago on a short twenty mile trip east of Ladysmith on August 22, 2003, I counted 32 Eastern Kingbirds. That event ingrained in me the early nature of kingbird movement, so much so that in southern Wisconsin, I refer to the weekend the closest to August 25 as “Kingbird Weekend”.
In the same light, everyone’s contributors add to the knowledge base. Better data is helping all of us know when these species move, but the why they are migrating so early is potentially a much more interesting question. All of these species sally out from a perch and capture flying insects. They will capture almost anything the flies. Tyrant flycatchers eat insects of all major taxonomic groups, true flies are a dietary staple. Bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, beetles, and true bugs are well represented.
Olive sided Flycatchers especially prefer bees and wasps. These prey species may be the key for when the birds migrate. Almost all boreal and bog plants bloom before mid-August. Their attendant native bee pollinators are mostly gone when the plants stop blooming.
Yellow-bellied Flycatchers have a poor published record for understanding their diet. However, speculation can envision a similar reduction in primary food in the understory of boreal forest and bogs.
Great-crested Flycatchers capture many moths and butterflies. Many times they can be seen snatching cryptically patterned moths from the bark of trees. Underwing moths and especially forest dwelling butterflies are reduced dramatically in population by late summer.
Eastern Kingbird’s predominate food is flies, especially deer and horse flies. They eat bees, but almost always they snatch drones to avoid the stingers. I’ve always made the mental connection that by late August the deer flies are nearly done and Eastern Kingbirds leave almost in synchrony with their waning. This speculation needs scientific confirmation, but it’s an idea worth exploring.
Shorebird migrants: Shorebirds still have exceptional numbers with some adults remaining, and many young of the year joining them on the mudflats. Naturalists should look for good numbers of many species. Late August is peak time for Semiplamated Sandpiper, immature Least Sandpipers, immature Stilt Sandpipers, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Red-necked Phalarope, and Semiplamated Plover.
Late August floral peaks: Peak blooming is most predominant in open wet areas, such as prairies, sedge meadows, and fens. Although, forest areas are showing well with goldenrods and aster coloring the forest floor both north and south. Late August blooming plant and fruiting observation is best accomplished by visiting these habitats. Several earlier blooming species are setting fruits in late August.
Table 1. Native Wildflowers with peak blooming times August 21 - 31
Blue-spotted salamander metamorphosis: The Blue-spotted salamander is our most commonly observed salamander species due to tolerance of drier conditions compared with other salamander species. Most of the summer is needed for larval salamanders to grow into adults. Woodland pools that maintain water through mid-August at a minimum are needed for this species to complete its metamorphosis. New changed adult blue-spotted salamanders have light yellow rather than blue spots. Moist late August days, especially if the low dark clouds persist most of the day, are great for salamander searches.
Fresh water sponges: Wisconsin does have freshwater sponges in many water bodies. Freshwater sponges are aquatic animals that grow in lakes, rivers, bogs, and streams. They usually attach to attached to submerged rocks, sticks, logs, or aquatic vegetation. Growth forms vary from elongated masses to small marble shaped spheres. The surface can be wavy with finger-like projections or even smooth.
Wisconsin’s sponges grow through the summer, and die back in the winter. In late summer, sponges form small spherical protective structures that contain cells from which new sponges will grow in spring. These structures appear like tan poppy seeds.
Sponges grow in relatively shallow water and they can be found by wading. Observe rock and sticks, where they might grow. It’s best to look for them in late summer and early fall. Sponges may be colored green by algae that live inside their cells in color. Sponges preferring the underside of logs and sticks are usually brown or pink in color.
The red maple is the first tree to show its fall colors.
Roadside wires are dominated by one species of swallow, which flock up and migrate in mass. Tree Swallows reach their peak numbers in mid-August, but can remain into early October.
In barrens areas, look for water measurer, (earthstar fungi). Their stilts push the puffy ball skyward in preparation for spore dispersal.
While observing goldenrods, keep an eye peeled for a black and yellow-orange day flying moth – the black and yellow lichen moth. This species larva feeds on lichens, but the adult nectars on goldenrods.
Another species found in prodigious numbers at goldenrod flowers is the Pennsylvania soldier beetle (or leatherwing). This species is identified by its orangish background colors and black tips to its elytra. Their favorite food is goldenrod pollen.
Northwoods naturalists visiting aspen forest at night should be aware that the once-married underwing moth reaches its peak abundance in late August, and farther south in the oak-hickory woods look for the widow underwing.
With a 4-inch wingspan, that strange-looking hummingbird feeding on your garden flowers may actually be the white-lined sphinx moth. This large day-flying nectar feeder is the species most often confused with a hummingbird at flowers in late August.
Leafhopper diversity reaches its peak in late August. More than 125 leafhopper and treehopper species are found in the state. They mostly feed in plant juices and can sometimes become pests. Nearly all species are less than ½ inch in length. Naturalist should be aware of the diversity and those with specialized interest can run their sweep nets through the grasses and have fun identifying the numerous species.
Several species of club moss cast their spores to the wind in late August. Look for the taller spore structures on princess pines and ground cedar. plus other club moss species.
Mountain holly (fruit)
Wild raisin (fruit)
Northern bog aster
May apple (fruits)
Tick-trefoil (seeds cling)
Gray dogwood (fruit)
Maple-leaved viburnum (fruit)
Prickly ash (berries)
Wild plum (fruit)
Black cherry (fruit)
Purple false foxglove
Wild cucumber (fruit)
Inflated sedge (fruit)
Bogs and swamps
Tamarack swamps an dbogs
Cedar swamps and fens
Cedar swamps, open bogs
Dry to mesic forests
Prairies and woods
Open areas, old fields
Dry to mesic forests
Old fields, fencelines
Dry to mesic forests, old fields
Wet meadows and fens
Moist open areas and wetlands
Wet meadows and prairies
Muddy shores & wet meadows
Native and reconstructed prairies
Wet praries & sedge meadows
Moist open areas and wetlands
Muddy shores & wet meadows
Margins of ponds
Floodplains, wet woods
Dry woods & savannas
Dry woods & savannas