October 2015

The dazzling autumn colors this month seemed the best in years, or was it the long strand of gorgeous blue skies and pleasant weather that made October especially beautiful? A few inches of rain mid-month, and a few killing frosts, brought the color up another notch and kept the leaves on the trees a little longer. By month’s end, the show was over, leaving just the ochres and browns of the lingering oak leaves.

Ripples on the surface of a pond reflect a riot of fall color
Slow down and pay attention. You’ll be glad you did. Photo: Dod Chahroudi

10/1     The early morning sky was overcast with drizzle and a cool 50°, but by afternoon the front passed through and strong northwest winds were gusting to 25 knots and blowing the rest of the day.

10/2     It seemed a bit early for “high-flyers” – flocks of migrating geese – but there they were. Or rather there they seemed to be. In a steady rain from a cloudy sky, the sounds filtered down. Probably not a very large flock, and given the distortion it was unclear to us if they were snow geese or Canada geese. Nonetheless, we recognized the siren song of autumn.  — Tom Lake, T.R. Jackson

10/3     Rain at daybreak diminished to clouds as Hurricane Joaquin stayed just south of Kent.

10/3     The wind and rain put an end to a summer-long observation I had started in May. One early May morning I noticed an odd-looking addition to one of our exterior lamps. Looking closely I quickly spotted the builder: an industrious bald-faced hornet queen had decided to set up housekeeping just outside a window where we could watch.

Photo of queen bald-faced hornet building her initial nest
Building for the future. All by herself. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

Her initial nest didn’t look anything like the nests of this common species I’d seen before, but her markings made it pretty clear what she was. Jean and I decided to watch what she did. She worked very hard indeed and after a few weeks was rewarded with a first brood of workers. As expected, they took over all the housekeeping and building, leaving the queen inside to make yet more workers. One of the first things the workers did was rework the architecture of the nest while simultaneously enlarging it to accommodate the next wave of their sisters.

Photo of bald-faced hornet nest remodeled by first brood of workers
Now this is more like a proper hornet nest. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

Over the course of the summer the workers, well, worked. Boy, did they work. By August they were making more than 120 flights an hour from first light to last. They built, reworked, repaired and expanded their nest until it had engulfed nearly the whole lamp.

Photo of bald-faced hornet nest practically engulfing the lamp on which it is built
Hard at work keeping everyone fed and everything shipshape. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

As September wound down we started watching for signs the reproductives were coming and hoped to watch a new generation of queens start next year’s cycle. But it wasn’t to be. Last night’s rain and wind was a disaster of major proportions for the hard-working hornets. By morning the nest had been shredded and scattered all across the back yard. Most of the workers scattered, too, but a few tried to carry on. After a few days the population was down to single digits and then there were none.  — Dave Ehnebuske

Photo of bald-faced hornet nest destroyed by wind and rain
It was a dark and stormy night. Photo: Dave Ehnebuske

10/4     Several Kent residents and visitors helped with the cleanup of Mount Nimham in preparation for the Fire Tower Festival the next week. The grass was trimmed, the fallen oak removed, the garbage bagged and the mountaintop looked lovely.

Photo of volunteers cleaning up the Mount Nimham Fire Tower grounds
We couldn’t have done it without you! Photo: Beth Herr

10/4     The storm system that brought the area all sorts of trouble finally moved out, leaving us, at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, to find birds in the deep-blue abyss. The highlights included two osprey carrying fish and traveling east and northeast. More than half of our count today was 27 sharp-shinned hawks, bringing the season’s total to 765. Non-raptor observations included 62 blue jays and 16 Canada geese.  — Charlie Plimpton, Chelsea Blauvelt, Christiana Ricchezza, Jan Linskey, Pat Linskey

10/11     I had a bit of a surprise when I found my game camera pulled down around a tree this morning while hunting on North Hollow. There were 30+ photos of this guy apparently trying to take my camera off the tree as a souvenir! I expected to see a hunter trying to steal it and didn’t even think about a bear! I’m happy it’s tied on with a cable around it.  — John Foley

Extreme close-up of a bear showing one eye and top of snout
Here’s looking at you! Photo: John Foley

10/11     The tenth anniversary of the Mount Nimham Fire Tower Festival was attended by almost 150 Kent residents and visitors. It was a fine day. The music, refreshments, car shuttles to the top, signage, traffic control, sound equipment, electricity, tents, chairs, and tables were all donated and the event run completely by volunteers.

Photo of tower festival attendees enjoying live music
The crowd gathers for the event. Photo: Renee Fleury

Photo of tower festival grounds and attendees
And the weather was terrific! Photo: Renee Fleury

10/14     Cooler and windy with squall lines alternating with sunshine that contrasted then illuminated the yellows, reds, and warm green (still). The maple leaves swirled to the ground, crunched underfoot. No rain, though it looked like it might.

10/16     The morning sun came over the reservoir and shown through the yellowing trees, dazzling them. As the day progressed, and the light shifted, the world turned peachy and golden, spotted with brilliant touches of the reds to come. I planted three packets of morning glories this year: one seed germinated. The spindly vine had started producing lovely blue flowers that mirrored the fall-blue sky.  — Robin Fox

10/17     It was a very busy day for turkey vultures (313) and sharp-shinned hawks (150) at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch. Many birds were seen to the south with movement being consistent throughout the day with the bulk of the birds coming through in the afternoon. There was also an increase in Cooper’s hawks (26). Non-raptor observations included a blackpoll warbler and 237 Canada geese.  — Charlie Plimton, Cristiana Ricchezza, Kathryn Schneider, Steve Walter, Tait Johansson

10/18     The first heavy frost blackened the garden this early morn. Winds were steady all day ushering in cold and clouds. There were mini-flurries of snow throughout the day. The color show pushed to full speed.

10/19     Autumn is a good time for watching leaves fall. Everyone knows that. But did you know that leaves – specifically maple tree leaves – have very specific patterns of falling to the ground? (Apologies to that insurance company.)

The image below captures one of the most unusual forms of leaf drop among maples, in my humble opinion. Well, actually, more than an opinion – my statement is based on the empirical evidence derived from several hours of observation. You may think I have too much time on my hands, but patience and photography go hand in hand. And choosing to wait purposely to uncover Nature’s designs sure beats aimlessly anticipating the arrival of some mysterious person named Godot. (Great play by Samuel Beckett, by the way.)  — Charles Daviat

Photo of leaf dropping stem first from maple tree
Leaf dropping (center right) from maple tree. Photo: Charles Daviat

Detail photo of maple leaf dropping stem first
Detail from the photo above showing leaf dropping stem first. Photo: Charles Daviat

Brrr! The thermometer fell to 21° this morning; the lawn was white with frost. The warm sun melted the crystals though it never got above 50° today. With woolen wraps, a jaunt through the Horsepound Unit meadows was a delight of color set off by a deep clear blue sky. Flocks of robins and bluebirds chattered to each other while they feasted on abundant berries and insects. Picked the last of the garden tomatoes.

Photo of tomatoes on a tray in many colors shapes and sizes
See? They don’t have to be bright red and tasteless. Photo: Beth Herr

While the surface was frosted, the ponds and lakes were just slowly cooling down. Green leaves dot the water’s surface; it rippled with activity from below.

Photo of bright yellow and red tree flanked by green ones
This year, the trees took turns showing off. Photo: Beth Herr

10/20     Mild by day’s end. Thousands of grackles moved through near sunset. What a racket they made in the trees and flying by.

10/21     Back up to 70°. Lots of chipmunks chirped in the woods, signaling the presence of predators – probably the migrating hawks that were passing through.

10/25     Coming home from Quaker Hill near sunset, the end of the day’s light electrified the ochres and reds of the maples and hickory trees on the distant hills of Kent.

10/26     Another gorgeous day with color still strong. The full Hunter’s Moon lit up the land tonight.

Photo of nearly-full moon over autumn trees
Fall comes quickly and doesn’t last. But, in Kent, it’s splendid while it’s here. Photo: Carol Gracie

In November:

  • The Taurid meteor shower peaks on the night of November 5
  • The Leonid meteor shower peaks on the night of November 17
  • The Full Wolf Moon rises in the west at sunset on November 25
  • Ruddy Ducks return to Lake Carmel
  • Meadow crickets still call
  • The leaves are off the trees and the forest floor is covered by month’s end
  • Grackle flocks move through
  • Milkweed pods open on dry days
  • Racoons and other mammals are still active