August is a month with much happening each day. There is a mysterious silence in the early hours as songbirds, now with their families raised, are not proclaiming territorial ownership as they did in the avian choruses of the early summer.
As the days warm, their vocal silence is partially filled by sounds of insects. Crickets, katydids and cicadas add their courtship and territorial calls to the summer days. In the heat of the afternoons, we also see the activities of butterflies, dragonflies, bees and wasps. The bees and wasps make return trips to their growing colonies whether they are in trees or the ground.
There is a movement among the silent birds and they call to each other as family groups pass through the branches. Joining with others, they prepare for the impending autumn southbound flights. Some, like chimney swifts, nighthawks and shorebirds, may have already begun this annual flight; others soon to follow.
Vegetables are ripening in the garden, sweetcorn in the fields and a plethora of berries along the roadsides. Pin cherries give way to choke cherries; raspberries are getting replaced by blackberries.
Among the flowering flora in these open sites are bergamot, boneset, joe pye weed and jewelweed. But the dominant ones of color now are the sunflowers, goldenrods and asters.
Beginning in July, this trio of native late summer flowers produces about 10 kinds of each. And they will last far into next month, some even beyond.
In the woods, mushrooms, a little late to begin this season due to the dry July, are now diversifying and thriving in the damp shade. Being quick to emerge from the soil and quick to fade, mushrooms reveal a new story here every day.
They are only one type of fungi, and many others are also in the woods. With a little looking, I note puffballs, corals, cups and jelly fungi. But I find that the time from mid-August to mid-September is a great time to look for spiderwebs.
Spiders have been with us for months. Those not making webs can be seen in our gardens and yards, often among flowers. The web-making kinds have been growing through the warmer weather and now we see their maturity.
Spiders that make webs are using their self-made devises as snares to catch prey. Webs are of four types: cobwebs, sheet webs, funnel webs and orb webs.
Cobwebs, frequently on sides of buildings, look like a messy mass of threads.
Funnel webs, often in grass, appear like small funnels, complete with a hole in the middle.
Orb webs are circular, often large and seen on plants at this time. These are the webs that most of us think of as spiderwebs.
The bowl-shaped sheet webs are common in our shrubs, especially evergreens. A marvel of myriads of threads, these webs take on a bowl shape that may have a platform beneath (bowl and doily).
It takes several days for the spider to construct this snare. The spider then hangs inverted under the bowl waiting to grasp insects that get confused in this network of threads.
Though the webs may be several inches tall and across, the spiders are tiny, only about one-quarter inch, yet making the web from silk glands in their body. The web maker may stay in this hunting location for days or even weeks, patiently waiting for food.
Now, in late August with dew-covered early mornings, sometimes with fog, these sheet webs are easy to locate and we see how abundant they are.