15 October 2016: Autumn is here though the temperature may fool you. After near-frost last Thursday we’ll reach 81oF next week.
Despite the fluctuating temperatures, plants and animals are getting ready for winter. What will we see outdoors in the weeks ahead? Here’s a list from Chuck Tague’s phenology for the month of October.
- Fall foliage will peak from north to south and from the mountains to the lowlands. Color hasn’t reached its peak in Pittsburgh yet.
- Blue skies and pretty sunsets, but shorter days as we lose 3 minutes of daylight each day. Daylight Savings Time ends at 2:00am on Sunday 6 November 2016.
- Sounds: Listen for blue jays, chipmunks and the last of the crickets.
- Flowers: Asters and smartweeds, chicory, spotted knapweed, and white snakeroot.
- Fruits, nuts, berries, acorns and “hitchhiker” seeds are everywhere.
- Migrating songbirds: The first dark-eyed juncoes, purple finches and golden-crowned kinglets arrived in my neighborhood last week. We’ll also see yellow-rumped warblers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, blackbirds, grackles, brown creepers and lots of sparrows including song, chipping and white-throated.
- Watch for these uncommon migrants: Lincoln’s sparrows and rufous hummingbirds.
- Hawks: October is the month for sharp-shinned hawks, American kestrels and red-tailed hawks. Golden eagles begin their peak at the Allegheny Front Hawk Watch in late October. The Front’s highest-ever golden eagle count was last year: 74 on October 24, 2015.
- Ducks and cormorants are moving south. Last Sunday at Pymatuning the Three Rivers Birding Club outing found mallards, American wigeons, wood ducks, blue and green-winged teals, northern shovelers, gadwalls, ruddy ducks and ring-necked ducks. The lakes aren’t freezing so the ducks are taking their time getting here.
- Owls: Short-eared owls and northern saw-whets are on the move to their wintering sites. Eastern screech-owls and great horned owls stay home to claim their territories.
- Rodents are stocking up on food: Squirrels are burying it, mice and chipmunks are stashing it, and groundhogs are eating it.
- The white-tailed deer rut has begun and so have various hunting seasons. Wear blaze orange and stay safe.
For more of Chuck Tague’s beautiful photos and his description of October’s wonders see his 2011 blog at: Asters, Wooly Bears and Sweaters: a Phenological perspective for October
(photo by Chuck Tague)