Phenology is the study of biological activity patterns through the seasons … or … (my definition) a list of what nature is doing at a particular time of year.
Chuck Tague, who supplies me with beautiful pictures like this one, used to publish a newsletter called The Nature Observer News. The other day I was reminiscing about his bi-monthly list of “What to Look For” that made me eager to get outdoors in every season. I relied on his phenology and now I miss it.
Last week [October 2008] I asked Chuck if he’d consider sending me abbreviated phenologies for southwestern Pennsylvania so I could post them on my blog every month. Happily, he was thinking of publishing The Nature Observer online and said I could piggyback.
[In 2008] Chuck launched his complete list for late October on his new blog, The Nature Observer’s Journal. Here’s the first hint of the treasures Chuck promises in southwestern Pennsylvania in the next two weeks:
- Fall colors reach their peak, especially red and sugar maples.
- First frost around October 20. First hard frost around Halloween.
- It’s hunting season! Wear blaze orange and be aware of Pennsylvania’s hunting seasons. Remember: Though Sunday is generally safer, some game can be hunted on Sundays.
- The first wave of ducks and geese migrate through our area.
- Hawk watches see lots of sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks.
- Golden eagle migration peaks at the Allegheny Front in the third week of October.
- White-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos and American tree sparrows arrive to stay through the winter.
- Big flocks begin to form at dusk and dawn: grackles, robins, starlings and (my favorite) crows.
- Pitt’s peregrines stay active on migration days while food (small birds) and threats (other hawks) fly by.
- Most flowers have gone to seed but watch for blooming witch hazel, bottle gentian, hardy goldenrods and asters.
- By October 31 in Pittsburgh the shorter days will provide only 10.5 hours of sunlight.
- Be prepared to “fall back” on the first Sunday in November when we set our clocks to Standard Time. After that, evening rush hour will be in the dark.
For Chuck’s complete phenology for October, click here.
(photo of Flowering Dogwood by Chuck Tague)