KALEIDOSCOPE FALL - As the kaleidoscope of our Fall season inexorably turns, the once- bright autumnal hues, which only recently seemed stunningly immutable and starkly in-our- face, have changed their tune. Now they speak to us in more muted, darker tones of faded yellow and orange, rich browns and disintegrating greens. I’m almost afraid of what they are trying to say. I think it’s something like “Winter is coming! Get used to somber shades, people!” For that’s what is upon us now and it seems that late fall is the visual practice-palette for the more subtle shades of winter, which is rapidly approaching.
A MUTED RAINBOW - Our fall continues to wind down, most leaves have colored and fallen. A few stubborn “hangers-on” (so to speak) don’t seem to want to leave (?) branch and limb. Perhaps it’s the lingering effects of the summer drought, which has left some clusters of brown, dead leaves. With any luck they too will blow off in the winds and hopefully not catch snow and break their boughs. We’ve gone from the peak of the season - when not only the trees seemed to represent the full spectrum, but we also had every type of creature persisting in their presence - birds, insects, mammal - large and small - a full species-spectrum, as it were. The temperatures locally have definitely been seasonable - alternating cool and warm - with some early frost locally, as well as several sixty-degree days. Perhaps now that we’ve had a hard frost that magical, warm and colorful mini-season, Indian Summer, will occur. At times there is a steady breeze blowing, parting leaf from branch, creating a distinctive, crisp, (coincidentally) fall-like wind-chill. Weather Channel prognosticates a mild winter with minimal snowfall. I love the mild winter part, yet I know that
historically in this part of the world our water-tables are charged by spring snow-melt and most seasons recently (with the exception of this past summer) we’ve been fortunate to get lots of spring rains after the ground thaws. Myself, I wouldn’t dare guess what our future holds for us weather-wise - there are so many variables. I admit I might not be open-minded on the matter and may be hoping for a mild winter for my own reasons (hiking, working outdoors). I know the reality is that the winter’s going to do whatever it wants to and we’ll either adapt or go south. Hmm, there’s an idea - be a snow-bird. Nah, been there, done that. The truth is I always end up adapting to our beautiful winter of muted grays and browns - the Season of (Mostly) Subtle Colors. After a childhood in Labrador and Maine, both of which have much longer winters (at least compared to us), ice not leaving lakes ‘til May, I still - and will always - appreciate our generally equal-length, three-month-long seasons. One thing that is interesting about writing these articles is that sometimes it can take me a week or so to pen them and, in progressively changeable, dynamic periods like Fall or Spring, everything I’m writing about can change, sometimes drastically, from when I start a Waghkonk Note to when I finish it.
FAUNA & FLORA - Since my last Note (Sudden Fall) much has gradually (and not-so-gradually) changed. Finally the last straggling Monarchs escaped to their Michoacán winter-forest as their Milkweeds spread their parachute-like seeds and more and more other insects have faded out (a few of them will emerge on a warm day in sunny spots - various moths, House- flies and Lady-beetles, for instance). The Cricket Chorus now consists strictly of Crickets and they are increasingly sluggish. The last of the Green Darner dragonflies have, well - dragon-flown out of here, mostly for sunnier climes. Haven’t seen any of our large rodents lately - Cottontail Rabbits (actually, they are lagomorphs - having slightly different skeletal features than rodents) and Woodchucks, though we have plenty of medium- sized Grey- and Red Squirrels. There is never a dearth of the small rodents like Deer- and White-footed Mice and Meadow Voles. Our Moles and Short-tail Shrews happen to also be lagomorphs, not rodents, classified in the Mammalian order Eulipotyphla, though I’m sure it matters not to my neighborhood Red Fox exactly what type of small creature he is eating (wonder if rodents taste different from lagomorphs?). It seems like our Bear issues have somewhat calmed. Perhaps they’re loving what acorns and Beechnuts we did have this year. Remember, please, how much Black Bear love birdseed and can smell it literally for miles with their best-of-all-mammals extraordinary sense of smell, so maybe still wait to put out the bird- feeders. DEC recommends November 30 at the earliest to do so. Our wintering Red- Shouldered- and Red-Tail Hawks are around. The Crows seem to bicker over, well, everything.. As the Crows totally freak out when a hawk enters their territory and try to mob them (usually unsuccessfully), the hawk seems to just shrug, as if to say “whatever” and then may, or may not, move on. At least one Great Blue Heron still persists and the Wild Turkeys are starting to gather in thickets for the winter, keeping wary eyes on local Eastern Coyotes. The Ravens and Vultures assist the Crows in cleaning up the squirrel-mess on the roads - the local Cleanup Crew. If the weather breaks cold the Black- and Turkey Vultures may fly a little further south, haunting the good folks of southern New Jersey, ‘til the weather warms again. Thank you all and please remember, it is hat and glove season now and always bring a light with you - and common sense - into the soon-to-be winter woods (I’m reminding myself, as well).
Take Care, “Ranger” Dave Holden
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