Photo by Corey Husic

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Reflections on October 2011

October is a month of transitions in eastern PA; the weather can vary dramatically from day to day or from one October to another.  One can review the weather for this month at this site for the Lehigh Valley (conditions from the Lehigh Valley International Airport or ABE; see  This year, we had a high of 86 degrees on October 9th and the forecasted 25 degrees for tomorrow night will be the low for the month.  Today's temperature of 33 was the coldest so far.  Friends in Bethlehem have indicated that they have not yet had frost this season.  Here in Kunkletown (Chestnut Ridge) we have had a light coating of ice on the car windshield twice - once on October 6th and yesterday morning.   But we have not yet had a hard freeze so, from a gardener's perspective, things have been mild this fall season.  I think it is unusual to not have a heavy frosts or a hard freeze by now.  But then it is also unusual to have a Nor'easter in October that brings between 6 to 12" of snow!  (At 7:24 p.m. we have 11" so far.)
Before the snow, as late as this past Wednesday (10/25) we heard katydids, two species of crickets, and spring peepers here in Kunkletown!

The first flower on a Witch Hazel was seen here on October 10th, and they are in full bloom now, but covered in wet, heavy snow today.  So much for getting good pictures of the flowers.

We saw the first junco on our property on October 9th, but over the past week, we have seen greater numbers of them.  Dan at the Lehigh Gap reported the same thing.  Juncos first showed up in various locations across the Lehigh Valley this past week.  It is likely that the earliest Juncos were ones that stay relatively local to breed but move to higher elevations over the summer.  The larger numbers showing up at feeders now may have migrated down here from areas farther north. 

Below is some October phenology as reported by Karen at Big Pocono State Park:
Autumn is winding down, but there is still plenty to observe. It's a good time to be on the mountain.
Information concerning species of interest includes:
October 7, 2011
There are still a number of pods opening on the milkweeds (Asclepias syriaca).
New growth is observed on some of the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).
October 11, 2011
Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is still blooming.
October 14, 2011
Few leaves remain on the serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.).


Yesterday, my research student Anna and I took a drive through Cherry Valley along Lower Cherry Valley Road and then came back on the south side of the Kittatinny Ridge along State Road 1020 and West Bangor Road.  We have been doing surveys of invasive plant locations and pervasiveness. 

There was a significant difference in terms of how many leaves were still on the trees on the south side of the mountain as compared to the north side.  The oaks were holding their leaves on the north so the woods on the north had that late-autumn gold/rust coloring.  The trees on the south side of the Ridge were just barely past their peak color.  For contrast, in Bethlehem, the leaves were just approaching the peach color this past week. 

Some pictures:

The fall colors of Sumac against the backdrop of the north face of the Kittatinny Ridge
October 28, 2011 Lower Cherry Valley Road

Multiflora Rose "hips" (an invasive plant species) and Goldenrod (Soldago sp.) in seed.
Birds like both types of seeds, which serves to propagate native and invasive species alike.

A pond along Lower Cherry Valley Road
Note the color in the understory - all the invasive Japanese Barberry along a creek.

A prolific year for Oriental Bittersweet seeds. 
This invasive vine can grow so large and heavy that it can take down trees.
Birds help spread the plant by eating the seeds.
A forest view on the north side of Lower Cherry Valley Road
A farm field overgrown with invasive plants along the north corridor of the Kittatinny Ridge
(Lower Cherry Valley Road).
Note how green the leaves on invasives still are on October 28th.
The road edges were filled with Japanese Stiltgrass and Garlic Mustard.
A creek along Lower Cherry Valley Road.
Note the lack of leaves left on native saplings.
Forest and farm field along the northern corridor of the Kittatinny Ridge.
Note the lack of understory growth.  Overbrowsing by deer, perhaps?
A fall scene in the Kittatinny Ridge corridor.

More roadside invasives - this time along the south corridor of the Kittatinny Ridge.
What a difference a day makes!
Kunkletown, PA (Chestnut Ridge) on Otober 29th. 
The large silver maple had just reached peak color this week.

Looking toward the north face of the Kittatinny Ridge - elusive with the white out of snow!

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