Nature Watch: August Offers Days of Abundance
About the author: Steve Ellis is a naturalist and Land Trust member who enjoys sharing his love of the natural world. His blog series, “Nature Watch,” will appear each month in “Habitchat,” chronicling native plants and wildlife you can expect to see during that particular time of year. We thank Steve for sharing his passion, illustrating the importance of island conservation. And a special thank you to Martha Ellis, his wife, for sharing her beautiful nature photos.
Nature runs on surplus, and August provides an overabundance of insects, seeds, and berries. Yet the daylight is noticeably shorter and there’s a feeling the time of plenty will soon draw to a close. Nectar sources dwindle causing Rufous Hummingbirds to travel upslope into the flower parks of the North Cascades Mountains. By month’s end, many of the “summer” birds develop a restlessness that leads to the great migration southward.
A look at two species you might notice in August:
Flora: Pearly Everlasting, Anaphalis margaritacea
This fuzzy white wildflower usually grows in clumps. Stems are 8 inches to 36 inches tall and have long, narrow leaves. Flowers are borne in rounded clusters; tiny individual flowers are yellowish and surrounded by several layers of papery white bracts resembling petals. Pearly everlasting begins blooming in mid-July and continues into fall. The flowers retain their shape and whitish color well past blooming, a tendency to longevity leading to the name “everlasting.”
This is one of the most important flowers for local native pollinators. Mylitta Crescents, Pine Whites, and Woodland Skippers are some of the butterfly species that vie with bees for this stalwart plant’s nectar.
Look for everlasting in sunny clearings and along roadsides.
Fauna: Woodland Skipper, Ochlodes sylvanoides
This sprightly 1.25-inch butterfly will be dashing from bloom to bloom in open areas. Skippers occasionally hold their forewings at an angle to the hindwings, giving them a slightly different configuration than we’re used to seeing in butterflies. Woodland Skippers’ wings are tawny orange, with pale blocky spots forming chevrons on the wings’ undersides. Their host plants – those which the skipper caterpillars are particularly adapted to eat – are various grasses. Their preferred habitats are open spaces with grass and at least a few nectar-producing flowers.
Woodland Skippers begin appearing as adult butterflies in late July, with August being their peak flight period. They overwinter here as first-stage caterpillars, hibernating in tall grass.
You can attract these little dynamos to your yard by leaving a section of tall grass and by adding a few native flowers such as pearly everlasting.