Retired teacher Larry Weber is the author of several books, including “Butterflies of the North Woods,” “Spiders of the North Woods,” “Webwood” and “In a Patch of Goldenrods.” Contact him c/o email@example.com.
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The woods of November are a great place to wander through. Gone are the hot days — not yet too cold and we don't deal with annoying insects. After the leaf drop and before the snow cover; the autumn interlude that I like to call "AutWin" prevails now. The woods are open; with the lack of arboreal foliage, we can see far into the trees that surround us. It is a fine time and place to wander through, but the forest of November is quite bare and monotone. The gray bark of trees blends with the covering of brown leaves on the forest floor.
The woods of early November is open and reveals conditions of the autumn interlude — between leaves dropping from trees and the lasting snow cover. This is a remarkable time, almost a season of its own, and I like to refer to it as "AutWin." It may last several weeks, maybe even into December, or it could be very short as it was in 2017, when we received a snowfall of nearly 11 inches at the end of October. But usually, early November is a time when we experience AutWin.
Late October is upon us, and the colorful changing scene that we observed so much earlier this month continues. The bulk of the leaf drop from local deciduous trees happened as expected about mid-month. This year, the late peak colors of this annual arboreal show did not last too long as the strong off-lake winds and above normal rainfall brought down most of the foliage. This leaf drop of mid-October does not happen all at once, and many trees lingered with their leaves. I find that quaking aspens tend to keep their yellow leaves longer than most.
The first weeks of October this fall may not have been what we were expecting weather-wise. After a September of several degrees above normal, we stepped into a month that became cooler than usual with plenty of clouds and rain. As of Oct. 10, the amount of rain recorded at the Duluth Weather Service had already exceeded the normal precipitation for the whole month of October.
By the time we reach mid-October, we've seen much of what fall has to offer in the Northland. Shorter days — now 11 hours of daylight — have triggered the migration with many kinds of birds and the flight of raptors, geese and songbirds continues to show this phenomenon.
Early October is a time of much color. The trees that have been here in full foliage since May now give us a superb show before dropping their food-producing leaves. Using chlorophyll throughout the summer, they thrived in the warmth and sunlight at that time, but with the shorter days in September, passing the autumnal equinox, they withdrew the green chlorophyll and yellow that was present all summer, but not seen due to the dominant green, now is easy to see.
During September, many of us take advantage of the closeness of Hawk Ridge to observe the fall migration of birds. We are fortunate to have a site nearby that allows us excellent views into the surrounding autumn. Here, with a background of the colorful fall foliage, we can watch the season changing right there with us. Though most of us go to see the movement of the south bound raptors, there are plenty of other migrants coming by, too.
It was a pleasant morning in June. With the early sunrise, there were many songs from the local breeding birds. And as I walked through the yard out to the road, I heard from robins, chipping sparrows and phoebes, all nesting here. From the nearby woods, early morning songsters continued with several warblers, a couple of vireos, a hermit thrush and a catbird. When I got to the swamp, I paused to look at the movements of a family of ring-necked ducks hiding in the shallows, while further out, the growing Canada geese clan fed.
Though September shows us much with all of the migration of birds, maturing of apples and other fruits and a plethora of mushrooms in the woods, it is the trees with their colorful leaves that grab our attention the most. The typical sequence of events is that most of the trees begin the month with green leaves. Shortening of daylight hours as we approach the autumnal equinox, causes the breakdown of green colors (chlorophyll) in the leaves and other colors, mostly yellow and red, will take over.
Whether driving, biking or walking in early September, it seems like I will be passing large growths of fall wildflowers in roadsides and fields. These abundant plants are mostly composed of a native trio that carries blossoms into the fall. Purple and white asters of about 10 kinds flower are here. Standing above them are tall plants with big yellow flowers: sunflowers. But when it comes to yellow colors, it is goldenrods that rule the scene.