Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fall is Falling

Fall is here at last, even if it seems a little late in arriving.  We have our annual neighborhood music party on the third Saturday of October which is usually at the height of leaf change.  Yesterday the valley was green with patches of gold and orange from the upper half of sugar maples while the oaks remain green.


Others have noticed that the peak season is later this year.  The website smokymountains.com has a map of the United States which shows the progression of leaf change across the country.  They are calling for the peak change for our area on November 8th.  If this occurs we should be in for a long slow progression of beautiful trees.

Jeff Cantrell offers a philosophical look at "America's Top Models", the trees of fall, in his Chert Glades Master Naturalist Nature Blog posting.  It is just one more call for naturalists to get out of the house and into the woods.

At Bull Mills we are still seeing the occasional monarch pausing on its journey south.  Caterpillars are reaching their last instars and heading to the ground to pupate for the winter.  It is the time for the wooly bear forecast.

Wooly bear - REK

The weather bureau aside, the long term forecast for winter is still quite mixed.   Folklore has it that the wider the brown center stripe is on wooly bears (that is Pyrrharctia isabella caterpillars) the milder the winter.  If that is true the one above suggests you won't need your snow tires this year.  This will come as a shock to a few, but studies have not shown the wooly bear to be very accurate.  The color distribution has more to do with the past year's weather, affected by the length of the growing season.  Even the thickness of the coat is not accurate.  Regardless of their appearance, the caterpillars live through the winter with their antifreeze, and they have been shown to survive while frozen in an ice cube.  (See this NOAA site.)


On the other hand, if you go by the persimmon seeds, it is a toss up.  My friends report mixes of  knives, forks and spoons that sound like a trip through a kitchen drawer with no agreement between them.  I guess we will just have to wait and see.

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