October 2013

10/1    The squirrels are happy with the nut crop this year; acorns, hickory nuts, and walnuts abound. “Squirrel” comes from the Greek skiourus, “He who sits in the shadow of his tail.” Our gray squirrel uses its tail for balance, warmth, and as a parachute when jumping. It’s such a mild autumn day, but the squirrels know it’s time to collect and bury hundreds of nuts and fruits. They mark nuts with their scent by rubbing them on their faces or by licking them. The scent makes the nuts easier to locate later when they are hungry. They will find them even under the snow!

10/2    A glorious autumn day. Brown marmorated stink bugs arrived on the deck, on the outside of screens, and in sunny spots on the siding. — Phyllis Marsteller

A brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) adult sitting on a
The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) has made an impression in many areas of the Mid-Hudson Valley in the last few years, invading homes, businesses, schools, garages, and automobiles often in overwhelming numbers. Also called the shield bug, they are invasive insects native to Asia and introduced in the northeast in the 1990s. They are considered agricultural pests since in large numbers they can suck plant juices and damage crop production. Tom Lake. – Photo: David R. Lance, USDA APHIS PPQ, bugwood.org.

10/5    Dragonfly report: spotted spreadwing, fawn darner, Aeshna sp. (probably shadow aka umbrosa), cherry-faced and autumn meadowhawks and, of course, green darners. What I didn’t expect today was a widow skimmer (Libellula luctuosa), nearly a month later than my personal late date and about two weeks later than the late date for the state (that I am aware of). — Steve Walter

10/6    How unusual to wake up to a rainy, wet morning! It seems we’ve had an endless chain of stellar autumn days with clear, deep blue skies, fair-weather clouds and crisp autumn colors beginning to show. It is a nice change. The forest is damp; fall smells and colors are intensified. Besides, we can use the rain.

10/7    There’s a tornado watch in effect later today and at two in the afternoon wind gusts and rain showers have already started. A good soaking, combined with yesterday’s rain, is all that is needed for a good autumn mushroom bonanza. Mycologists have been saying the pickin’s have been slim with no rain for the last three weeks before this. By the weekend maybe the hen-of-the-woods will be blooming – yum-yum!

Evening report: the front moved through with strong updrafts and heavy rain, but no tornado or broken limbs. Prognosis: mushrooms will be blooming in three days. Too bad it’s cloudy though – this is the best night to view the Draconid meteor showers. Alas, not a star is visible through the heavy cloud cover.

10/9    Slate-colored juncos should be arriving for the winter, but still none are seen.

10/10    Cold and drizzle for the day, but crickets still call, and chipmunks chirp away. Soon they will be going underground for the winter.

10/11    An early morning walk in the DEP’s Horsepound Road Unit meadow was dazzling. Spider webs dotted the tall grasses, their silk strung with pearls and crystals of dew. And in the short grass, little doilies spotted the ground. Highlighted by the dew, the webs of the doily spiders look crocheted like grandma’s creations. By the walk’s end the sun had dried up the show. Little bluestem grasses have turned to auburn, and the last of the goldenrods are blooming.

Doily spider webs highlighted
by dew on low cedar bushes in garden
Morning dew makes the webs stand out – Photo: Beth Herr

10/12    Watching the leaves turn color as the days get shorter and the nights get colder is one of the perks of autumn. For a brief time the landscape looks like it’s wearing a rainbow. But while the deciduous trees are getting ready for the winter, the conifers are making their own preparations. For the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched the pine trees around my house become loaded with yellowing needles among the green of this year’s growth. This week it happened, as though they’d all gotten a signal, and they dropped them in one night. Underneath all the pines was a new thick carpet of shed needles.  — Larry Roth

10/13   I collected a bucket of acorns to keep as winter treats for the squirrels. I put them in a large flower pot so that the drainage holes would allow for air circulation and brought them in the house. I soon noticed small cream-colored “grubs” on the hearth. After some investigation I identified them as black oak acorn weevil (Curculio rectus) larvae. Looking at the acorns themselves you could plainly see the escape holes the larvae made to get out of their nursery.  — Marty Otter

10/15    Leopard frogs were calling at dusk, accompanied by flocks of robins and noisy flocks of blackbirds at the Ice Pond wetlands.

10/15    Bedford: Out of 151 migrants for the day at the Chestnut Ridge Hawkwatch, only seventeen weren’t vultures! One of these was a rather late adult broad-winged hawk that may be our last of the season. This bird was seen near the tail-end of a stream of fifty-five turkey vultures and five black vultures. Also counted were 96 brant geese (one flock). Current selected season totals of vultures: 319 turkey vultures, 19 black vultures.  — Arthur W. Green

10/16    Foliage glows with colors ranging from the golden ochre of the hickories to the pale yellow of grape and spicebush. False Solomon’s seal berries turn translucent ruby-red, ferns are golden, and blueberry and sumac leaves glow scarlet, while the damp smell of leaf mold hovers in the air.

Autumn colors the
spurge leaves
Autumn colors the spurge leaves – Photo: Beth Herr

10/17    A strong south wind and warm temperatures kept migrating songbirds in the bushes and trees feeding and gathering energy for the next north wind. Cedar waxwings and robins were competing with starling flocks for dogwood berries and the remaining poison ivy berries. Areas of brush had good numbers of white-throated sparrows, and yellow-rumped warblers were everywhere.

10/18    A full Hunter’s Moon was dazzling, lighting up the night like lightning. Wow, so bright, and for so long. On average, the Moon appears 50 minutes later each day, but near the equinox it rises just 10 minutes later than the previous day. This produces several consecutive nights of near-full moons and perhaps 100 hours of light. If these full moons occur at perigee, (when the Moon is closest to the Earth), they can be particularly bright. This month perigee was on October 10 when the Moon was just a crescent.

To add to the show, Venus has been visible just after sunset in the southwest sky – a dazzling jewel even in full moonlight.

10/19    It’s been quite a while without any measurable precipitation. Hopefully tonight’s forecast rain will be more than mist.

10/21    The Orionids meteor shower is expected tonight. The Orionids is a prolific meteor shower in which the “shooting stars” are observed to radiate from a point in the night sky in the constellation Orion. Take a peek at Kent’s evening sky when clear skies are forecast and learn about the annual meteor showers that occur more often than you would think.

10/22    The ruddy ducks are back on Lake Carmel signaling the middle of duck migration when northern species begin to arrive.

10/25    Reports of migrating monarchs are not coming. Even stopovers like Croton Point Park in the Hudson and Cape May, New Jersey – where they mass on sassafras trees waiting for the right winds – are reporting very few monarch butterflies passing through.

There are two major migratory monarch populations in North America, east of the Rockies and west of the Rockies. Each year, the final brood of summer monarchs in the East flies down to winter in the Oyamel fir forests in the Transvolcanic Mountains of Michoacan, Mexico (2,400-3,600 meters elevation). Historically, millions of monarchs have congregated in this small area in Mexico each winter. Many of these southbound emigrants come from Eastern North America, but numerically most hail from the upper Midwest. In the spring, new broods travel north, repopulating North America.

Recently, illegal logging in Mexico has damaged the wintering sites. More importantly, perhaps, much of the corn grown in the Midwest is genetically modified to be resistant to herbicides. Farmers douse the landscape to eliminate weeds, thus destroying the host plant (milkweeds) for monarchs, while leaving the corn unaffected. Some are now suggesting this will lead to a loss in the biological phenomenon of monarch migration. Invertebrates are hearty and resilient, but there is no telling how long they will be able to withstand the headwinds they now face.  — Rick Cech, author of Butterflies of the East Coast: An Observer’s Guide.

10/30    It was wonderfully, but weirdly mild this week. It’s hard to believe it’s almost November. Most leaves have fallen but the oaks hold their bronze, russet, and cinnamon hues.

10/31    Evening rain might have kept trick-or-treaters close to home, but it was very welcome! Water levels are very low. Maybe this rain will spawn some fall mushrooms in a few days.

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