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 mild autumn of this year continues. According to the weather service, the first third of the month was the warmest for this time in November on record. And though we have received some colder conditions since then, we continue to be far above normal. During many years, by the time we reach the third week of November, we are dealing with freeze-up of not only the ponds and swamps, but also several of the region's lakes. Despite the recent snow, we are below the usual and much behind last year.
Walking in the AutWin (autumn-winter) woods continues to be a delight. This interlude between the leaf drop of October and the coming snow cover is such a terrific time to see things among the bare and bland-looking trees of the forests. Squirrels and chipmunks are actively gathering food for the coming cold. Migrant flocks of tree sparrows, juncos and snow buntings (in the more open sites) feed on seeds. A flock of robins is in the crabapples. Non-migrant chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers are easy to see in this scene.
November is well known for clouds, cooling and early darkness that leads to frozen ground, ice on lakes and usually a snow cover by the time we exit these 30 days. Though we will not settle into deep cold or snow until a bit later, the days of November are moving in that direction. And dealing with the coming cold, we are seeing the continuous preparations for winter going on among the local critters. Out in the yard, I've noticed less activity from chipmunks as they cache meals for their long denning time. Soon I'll not see any.
After most of the days being clear and dry with a temperature above normal, October ended with a variance to this theme. We did get rain, clouds and some cold, but the real chill and freezing has not yet arrived. October did give us the dazzling changes that we expected. We entered the month with colorful leafy trees and now exit with bare forests after the leaf drop. AutWin prevails as we leave October and enter November. I see the time of AutWin as the days between the leaf drop and the persistent snow cover.
October continues to be a transitional time in the Northland. We began the month with mild conditions, some days even quite warm, and slowly moved into a more chilly mode. The anticipated colors of the autumn leaves were with us for many days and we were not disappointed in this arboreal show. Not only did the foliage linger longer this year, but blended with continuous "bright blue weather." We had superb, dazzling scenes. But this is a show in which we know the ending.
The last rays from sol are disappearing behind the forests to the west. The red and gold glow given by these trees now has the sunset spectrum on the horizon, forming a backdrop. Sunset is earlier each evening now, but on a clear day like this light lingers for a half hour or more. The temperature of about 50 degrees and calm winds help bring this marvelous autumn day to a close. The day was one of sunlight, "October's bright blue weather" in mild temperatures. Migrant sparrows, warblers and robins were in the yard. And I noted a sapsucker and flicker passing through as well.
Early October is a dazzling time in the Northland. And whether we have clear skies or not, there is no shortage of colors. It seems like nearly every kind of...
As we begin the delightful autumn month of October, it's good to take a look back at September. Though not always so apparent, the month was warmer and wetter than usual. Thanks to the earlier days, some in the 80s, we had a temperature that averaged several degrees above normal and only a few times did the mercury drop below 40 degrees. Perhaps the biggest weather factor of this month was the rain, sometimes quite hard, that gave us close to 3 inches above the norm.
This year the autumnal equinox was on Sept. 23. We entered autumn during these last few days. The weather of the previous week, the last week of summer, was more like this previous season. Now with the time of darkness outlasting that of light, we will proceed through the rest of September more in an autumn mode. Migrants continue to pass through. Besides the large and loud flocks of Canada geese passing over, we have a regular raptor movement.
As we travel on our annual trip around the sun, we have four astronomical markings of note: the summer solstice, the day of greatest amount of daylight; the winter solstice, the time of most darkness; and the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, where the amount of light and darkness are equal. On this journey, we are now at the time of the autumnal equinox, the beginning of fall. From now until the vernal equinox of March, the darkness each day will be longer than daylight. With the light of sol lessening each day, nature goes through quite an adjustment and we see these changes daily.