While some months seem to flow one into the next without much difference, August is different. August happens to be a month were many things stand out. It’s clearly a month of transition.
1. I don’t know if August has more fog than any other month, but the local name Fogust is well deserved. Fog can make for wonderful photography from macro, think moisture dripping from spider webs, to landscapes with sunlight streaming through the fog. It also can make for hazardous navigation to unprepared boaters.
|Early morning fog|
|Sailboat heading into a fog bank|
2. Early August is when the woodland skipper butterflies appear. Usually they are common on Puget Sound gumweed but this year the gumweed is pretty well dried up. Fortunately the skippers are adaptable and this year the nectaring plant of choice is sea rocket, Cakile maritima (non-native) and Cakile edentula (native).
|Woodland skipper on Puget Sound gumweed|
|Woodland skipper on sea rocket|
3. Birds: Several species of bird stand out in August. Song sparrows are fledging their second brood and seems like the adults are ready to be done with it. The new batch of fledglings are all nearly tailless when they leave the nest. This is not true of the first set of fledglings.
|Taillless juvenile song sparrow|
|Juvenile song sparrow investigates a woodland skipper butterfly|
If black oystercatchers are successful, this is the month they fledge their young. The oystercatchers nest on neighboring Low Island but are daily visitors to Yellow. The following photo from several years ago shows an adult feeding a juvenile in our rocky intertidal. So far no young this year. Typically they are successful every three out of five years.
|Adult oystercatcher feeding a limpet to a juvenile|
August is also a month when Bald eagles become scarce. The normal pattern is for the eagles to head north to the Frazier River for the salmon runs. This year is different in that the salmon runs were abysmal and the eagles have not dispersed. With some dead seal pups around the eagles weren't going hungry.
|Bald eagle with dead seal pup|
Finally, shorebirds are at the peak of their southerly migration. While we get very few shorebirds at Yellow, when we do this is the prime month.
|Wandering tattler from a few years ago|
4. Crickets start chirping in mid-August. This goes on until mid-October. When I listen to the crickets it sounds like there are hundreds of them yet I almost never see them. Their chirping can be so loud that it is almost impossible to get descent bird song recordings.
5. August is the month that a couple species of jellyfish come to the end of their life cycle. Some years I get several hundred lion’s mane jellyfish scattered on our various beaches. For some reason this year there are very few but there were several days with about a hundred moon jellies. I asked Claudia Mills, local jellyfish expert, about the moon jellies and this was new to her in over 30 years of continual data collection in the San Juans. Climate change and the resulting ocean conditions, warmer and more acidic, are supposed to favor jellyfish.
|Lion's mane jellyfish on SE landing beach|
6. August is also known for the Perseid meteor showers. This year the peak night was supposed to be August 12. I rolled out my sleeping bag on the picnic table ready for the show. But I wasn’t in the bag 15 minutes when it started raining. It was our first rain in over a month. The rain continued all night so all I got was a soggy night out in the rain. The last couple nights I’ve been sleeping out and seen several shooting stars each night, but nothing like the Perseid at its peak.
7. August is the end of seal pupping season. This can make for very noisy nights. The moms just leave their pups and the pups don’t like. A favorite nighttime haul out spot for the pups is Low Island. Their balling for their moms goes on throughout the night.
8. Island work: To maintain the prairies on Yellow, we employ a couple methods. Some years we use fire, usually in late August, but not every year. This is an off year for fire so what I do is weed whack the prairie portions of the island, about seven acres. To date I have about an acre completed but fortunately this project doesn’t need to be completed until spring.
9. Monitoring. The stewardship team monitors TNC’s land and easements every year to stay in LTA compliance. For me this begins in August. The monitoring I do is five islands, four owned by TNC and one by SJPT that TNC holds the easement on. To refresh myself on the software we use, Collector Companion, I monitored Yellow in mid-August. On August 23, Randi Shaw joined Dean Dougherty (SJPT) and myself to monitor Jack Island owned by SJPT.
|Dean and Randi inspect an area clear of English ivy by a WCC crew on Jack Island.|
10. The days are noticeably shorter. August 1 sunrise is at 5:56 with sunset at 8:47, nearly 15 hours of sunlight. August 31 sunrise is at 6:28 with sunset at 7:53, down to about 13.5 hours of sunlight. Where I notice it the most is in the evening. If I want to have dinner in Friday Harbor with friends, I now have to leave Friday Harbor by 8:00 if I want to be off the water before dark.
11. Just now talking to some visitors and it reminded me of a photo project I wished I had started my first year here. August is the month that Pacific madrone starts shedding its inner red bark in large sheets. This leads to very interesting and photogenic patterns on the madrones. Well, the project never happened because i didn't think of it until this year. But these are a couple of the patterns I've photographed over the years from different trees.