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Season of Change

Nov 04, 2010

autumn foliage in forest

We’re approaching the mid-point of the autumn season now and seeing the proof in more frequent frosts and colder temperatures. I had a fire in my wood stove last night, the first of the season. Several of the annual migrations have already occurred--most of the mourning doves have gone south, along with most of the blue-winged teal. The monarch butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds have also largely gone. The woodcock migration is passing through Missouri now, and I found a concentration of about 10 of them when I was out in the Missouri River bottom on Monday.

American woodcock

I came across a couple of the pendulous nests of orioles on the ground, blown out of trees by the wind. Their builders and their progeny are likely enjoying the sights and foods of Central America by now. We’ll see them again in late April of next year.

bald-faced hornets' nest

The large, gray, papery nests of bald-faced hornets are another common remnant of this past summer that becomes more visible as the trees lose their leaves. After a hard freeze or two, the nests should be free of all hornets. The queen will be underground for the winter, and this season’s female workers and males are dead. The nests will deteriorate during the winter with no hornet colony around to maintain them.

There are many seeds available now, nature’s and man’s crops from this past growing season. Beggar’s lice can grow thickly in the river bottoms and I annually help to spread them around while quail hunting. They are a legume, with each sticky section of the fruit containing a seed like a tiny, glossy bean. Another common legume in the sandy areas is wild bean, whose papery pods twist open to release their small, dark, pillow-shaped seeds. The quail that I found had been eating these wild seeds, along with the soybeans and corn from nearby harvested crop fields.

This is a great time of the year to roam a local conservation area without the mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers of earlier months. The sky even seems bluer at this time of the year, beckoning us outside. I hope you will take the time to enjoy the season in the outdoors.

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