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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It's the beginning of autumn. Everything we expected to happen is happening. Mornings are often clear and cool with sunny skies in the afternoon, warm to the 60s or 70s. In the quiet calm air of the morning, I hear a couple of flocks of geese passing over. The Canada geese flocks, maybe in the hundreds, are a regular event now and I expect them every day. But one of these flights is quieter and smaller. A closer look reveals snow geese, the first of the season. Other migrants abound in the roadsides and woods. Several species of sparrows move through the grasses and woods' edges.
Anyone driving the Northland roads during late September cannot avoid being distracted by the arboreal shows that we see each day. The trees are always delightful but now, as the foliage takes on the colors besides the usual green, we take more notice. After about seven months of standing in our winter devoid of leaves, the trees grow these delicate food-makers in May. And for a while we enjoy the new chlorophyll colors in our woods, yards, parks and roadsides.
During a couple of walks I took on cool days this week, I was very impressed with the large amount of mushrooms and other fungi on the forest floor. Small, bright red waxy cap mushrooms (Hygrocybe) were mixed with the huge yellow-capped Amanita, the latter having caps as big as dinner plates. Each kind was growing here abundantly in the hundreds. Nearby were big white Russulas poking up through the dead leaves of the woods. Clusters of tan and gold corals as well as the white spherical puffballs were here, too. As I continued to wander among the forest fungi, I saw a bright red sight.
Mid-September is a time of much change in the Northland. Though the autumnal equinox isn't until Sept. 23, many of the local flora and fauna are taking on the appearance of the new season already. Leaf color is far from peaking, but yellows and reds abound along regional roads and woodlands, making our commutes more interesting with this arboreal glow. Goldenrods, asters and sunflowers, the late summer trio that has been thriving for weeks, are carrying their yellows, whites and purples into the coming season.
By the time we enter September, we are in the season of migration. We have ample opportunities to see the flights of southbound birds at Hawk Ridge as raptors go by. Watching flocks of broad-winged hawks in huge kettles, or the singulars such as sharp-shinned hawks, red-tailed hawks, osprey or harriers shows us this phenomenon of late summer and fall in action. Migration is not just something to talk about, but we can actually observe it going on during these flights. Their trek is normally silent, but that of Canada geese can be quite loud.
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