Photo by Corey Husic

Monday, October 10, 2011

The sun and warmth have returned, but what signs of fall are we seeing?

Well, after record rainfall for weeks on end, we have been rewarded with unusually warm (80's) and very sunny weather for this Columbus Day weekend.  This past week, I had reports from several locations north of the Kittatinny Ridge that experienced the first frost as night temperatures dipped into the 30's.  On October 6th, we had our first ice on the windshield and a light frost was on the grass in the field.  For those living south of the mountain, we are interested in when you have your first frost for fall 2011.

Yesterday brought the first junco to our property in Kunkletown.  There were reports on the PA Bird Line of others seeing them this past week.  Let us know if you have seen them in your property yet, and if not, when you do start seeing them.  White-throated sparrows have returned and many people are reporting Yellow-rumped Warblers.  For almost two weeks now, I have seen flocks of Canada Geese flying.  I haven't heard the Yellow-billed Cuckoos north of the ridge on our property for awhile now, but on Friday (10/7), I heard one along National Park Road just south of the Ridge in the Delaware Water Gap Recreational Area property.  We still have Eastern Phoebes hanging around - the first flycatcher to appear and apparently the last to leave.

Entering the National Recreation Area along National Park Road (10/7/11)
The hawk counters have noted the passing of the peak of Broad-winged hawks.  If past trends hold true, we are nearing the end of the Osprey migration, but are near the peak of the migration of Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks (accipiters), Kestrels, Peregrins, and Merlins (falcons).  Judging from all the "Sharpies" and Kestrels I have seen this week, this seems to be the case.  The migrations of Northern Goshawk, Red-tailed and Red-shouldered typically peak toward the end of October.  Golden Eagles should begin their migration at any time.

Hawk Watching at Bake Oven Knob
The leaves on the native dogwoods have turned a lovely shade of red/burgandy and the sassafras trees have fully turned.  Their colors vary from deep reds to rusty orange. 

A native dogwood along Tott's Gap Road (10/7/11)

Dogwood shrubs (perhaps Grey Dogwood) along National Park Road (10/7/11)
The berries on the Oriental Bittersweet (invasive) are turning orange, and the leaves of the Virginia Creeper vines (not invasive) are deep red now.  Judy from the Saucon Valley area also reported on the color of this vine (see below).

Virginia Creeper taking over a Rhododendron. 
This vine is a native, but can be a nuisance!
The burning bushes are beginning to show why they have the name they do.  See if you notice if this plant is spreading on its own in your area.  It sure is around Chestnut Ridge and Lower Smith Gap Road in Kunkletown.  This shrub is now on some invasive plant lists.

There are flower buds on the Witch Hazel; keep an eye on when those flowers open as this is a good fall phenological indicator. 

The extent of fall color on Chestnut Ridge, Kunkletown (10/10/11)
The Sassafras trees are the most brilliant now and
many Black Walnut trees have already lost their leaves (front right).

The north face of the Kittatinny Ridge on 10/10/11 - the color is just beginning to appear
Despite all these signs of fall, there are remnants of summer.  Some of my once-a-year blooming plants have rebloomed:  certain roses, a lilac, and my Giant Rudbeckia.  Very strange.  Because we haven't had a hard frost, other blooms are still looking good on a Viburnum, a Weigela, and even one of my Crape Myrtles - the shrub that is not supposed to grow north of the Kittatinny Ridge!  I have seen and hear two species of katydids.  Crickets are still "singing" as are some confused Spring Peepers and Grey Treefrogs.  Rainy weather followed by warming trends?  Maybe we just skipped fall and winter. (Ha!)

Lots of butterflies can still be seen: Cabbage Whites, various sulphurs, Common Buckeyes, Pearl Crescents, Peck's Skippers, and Monarchs.  I have yet to see a Milbert's Tortoiseshell.  They like the aromatic asters (Aster oblongifolius) and a perennial mum (that resembles a pink daisy; I think it is Dendranthemum 'Pink Sheffield' ) -- the buds on the latter are just about to open. 

A perennial mum about to bloom - a favorite of fall butterflies
The first blossoms on my aromatic asters opened about two weeks ago but they are almost at their peak now.  The blooms are long lasting and attractive to butterflies and native bees.

Aster oblongifolius accompanied by some marigolds that seeded themselves!

An amazing burst of fall color from aromatic aster
Let us know what is happening in your backyard.  Judy from Saucon Valley, Karen from Big Pocono State Park, and Mike from just over the Kittatinny Ridge from where I am all sent reports recently.  As you can see, there is much to pay attention to.

From Judy in Saucon Valley on 10/5/11:

The walnut trees have competed about 95% of their leaf drop and in some cases 100%. Some of the nuts are still holding on, but generally there are walnuts all over the grounds. We need to wear a hardhat at this time of year if we are working under the trees. We are starting to see a little color on the spicebush and a few of the other trees. However, the woodlot overall is dominated by green.

The Virginia Creeper has been showing color for at least two weeks.
Today I was drawn outside by the large black caterpillar that was distinctly in view from my window because it was so big. From my reference books I have tentatively identified it as a Giant Leopard Moth, - but I am a real amateur at this, so maybe I am wrong.

We put up a new birdfeeder this year, hoping to attract possible migrants. However, the chipmunk has found the seed source and I can report he can fill his cheeks, return to his burrow, and get back to the feeder four times in five minutes. Since bird traffic at the feeder was minimal the first week - I believe the chipmunk will be well fed this winter because the feeder was empty in six days. As the attached picture shows it is a large capacity feeder.

Generally the feeder (filled with Black Sunflower seeds) is now frequented by the Nuthatches, Titmouses, Chickadees, Goldfinches (Still showing yellow color) and Downy Woodpecker. The Robins have been feeding in the dogwood tree and I have noticed that the Blue Jays have a strong liking for beechnuts.  No sign of Juncos yet.

Any moth caterpillar experts out there who might confirm the identification?

From Karen at Big Pocono State Park:

9/8/11 - 9/8/11
Monarch caterpillar (Danaus plexippus) spotted eating leaves of milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Many of the milkweed pods are opening and seeds are being released.   (Note:  I noticed a lot of milkweed seed dispersal over the past two weeks in Kunkletown and the Lehigh Valley - along Airport Road)
Red maple (Acer rubrum): leaves are dappled red and green
Invasive: Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Leaves are beginning to yellow, and fruit is changing color as well.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is flowering in a number of areas at Big Pocono.
Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) seeds are maturing.

Big Pocono Phenology report for September 21 to October 5, 2011.
Species of interest:
Red Maple (leaves on most are close to being completely red)
Witch Hazel (all witch hazel observed are now in flower)  (Note:  This is very interesting since Big Pocono is farther north than Kunkletown, but our Witch Hazel flowers are not yet blooming.)
Groundhog seems more active than during summer (Note:  We have also noticed that the groundhogs are busy as are the squirrels and chipmunks.  A number of people have reported a higher than normal population of chipmunks this year.  Have others noticed this?)
From Mike on 9/13/11:
·      Robins (flocks) – migrating south – had not seen any in NE PA in several weeks   (Note: On 10/8 and 10/9 on Chestnut Ridge, I saw flocks of around 100 robins hanging out on the edge of the woods along the easement for the gasline.  I hadn't seen this many around in a long time.)
·     Large albino buck………..local folks say it’s been observed in the Henelopen area for about 10 years……………
Areas observed: Cape Henelopen, DE
Local meteorological conditions: Sunny – 80’s

From Mike on 9/15/11:

·     Red maple leaves turning bright red
Areas observed: Base of Blue Mountain – Danielsville area
Local meteorological conditions: Overcast – low 70’s

From Mike on 9/19/11:
·      Oak and maple leaves falling
Areas observed: Base of Blue Mountain – Danielsville area
Local meteorological conditions: Overcast – low 70’s

From Mike on 9/22/11:

(The strong emphasis in the font is exactly as Mike sent his report!  Boy and how - we are overwhelmed in Kunkletown with these pests and Bake Oven Knob reports attacks on the hawk counters.)
Areas observed: Base of Blue Mountain – Danielsville area
Local meteorological conditions: Overcast – low 70’s

Some other fall scenes from Chestnut Ridge on 10/10/11 showing the extent of autumn's progression:
Another view of the aromatic aster.
In the back to the right is a Giant Rudbeckia which is actually reblooming (odd).

The late colors of 'Autumn Joy' Sedum

A fall scene

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