Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall Turn Over & Beech Trees on Display

A doe casually looks behind her to see the dude with the camera
The end of October usual marks a major turning point in the activities of wildlife and plants. Most obviously, by now the majority of our deciduous trees have lost their leaves and have entered into their winter dormancy. Wildlife is also on the move –many are migrating and the year-round residents like beavers are busy storing food. White tailed Deer are wandering through the area, seeking out the places with good food reserves where they can spend the winter months. This is also the mating season for deer, and bucks will often travel long distances in search of a mate.

A small hemlock gets rubbed

At the preserve, I often hear the bucks rubbing their antlers on the trunks of small trees –scraping away the bark and gouging the wood in the process. Years later these deer "rubs" will become scars on the sides of trees –serving as evidence that once a buck performed his fertility ritual there.

A flock of Canada Geese fly in "V" formation over the nature preserve

The migrant birds are still on the move and their sounds usually capture our attention. This morning, about a dozen flocks of Canada Geese flew over. Most are not officially migrating yet. In fact they will remain as local birds for the time being. They will commute back and forth between the wetlands and agricultural fields until the area’s water freezes over and the fields get covered with deep snow. At that point, when feeding becomes difficult, the geese will decide to resume their migration --most will go east to the Atlantic coast.
One of many Robins that will spend the fall and maybe even the winter with us
Flocks of Robins and Bluebirds were in the air this morning. The Robins were also being seen in berry laden bushes and on the ground on grassy trails. Blackbirds are also passing over. Most are Red-winged Blackbirds, but a few of the flocks contain a number of other species, like the far less common Rusty Blackbirds.
The Myrtle Warbler is one of the last warbler species to come through the preserve
We still have not yet quite exhausted the supply of migrant warblers, although we are getting close. Only one species, the Myrtle Warbler, continues to be seen, but only in small numbers. Sparrow and finch numbers remain high. A couple of days ago more than a dozen Fox Sparrows were in and around the hedgerows. A few of them even sang, perhaps consciously making me out to be a liar for what I said about them in my last post. I said that they rarely sang during fall migration. I take it back!
Beech Trees create a final burst of color in the fall woods
In the old woods at the nature preserve, the American Beech Trees are putting on a rare show. The Beech Trees are among the last forest trees to lose their leaves and they are not usually known for their grand fall colors, but this year they seem to be outdoing themselves. Their color is ranging from yellow-green to bright copper. Some are a very pale tan and a few are still showing some green.
A close up view of some Beech Tree leaves
This tree's bark is obviously currupted by Beech Bark Disease (BBD)
These days our Beech Trees are not the healthiest trees in the forest. Most of them have Beech Bark Disease, which is characterized by pock-marked and sometimes heavily cracked bark. The normal bark of the Beech appears very smooth. The disease is initiated when the exotic Wooly Beech Scale insect feeds on the bark and creates in-roads for a fungus. The fungus first kills the bark and eventually the whole tree dies.The loss of the Beech Tree in our environment would be a serious blow to wildlife since every few years they provide a bumper crop of Beech nuts, which wildlife depend on.

The Flowers of Witch Hazel bloom in the fall even as its leaves turn brown

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