The spectacular bloom of goldenrods and asters fades as plants age to drooping stalks and earth tones.Cool nights give rise to morning dew…. and wet feet. The once daily encounters with cold blooded creatures – bugs, snakes, toads and the like – gradually disappear. Birds and mammals take center stage, competing for nature’s bounty as they instinctively prepare for winter.
Nutritious acorns and other “hard mast” are wildlife magnets and a critical food source for winter health and survival.
Wild turkey hen and her young foraging for seeds and bugs in a hay field.
Antlers free of velvet and polished, this mature whitetail will soon reach his peak weight and be ready for the physical challenges of the rut, the hunting seasons … and winter
Fungi thrive in the warm, wet weather of September. Fruiting bodies are everywhere, appearing quickly and unpredictably in the moist, organic habitats of woodlands.
Woodlands come alive in late summer as fungi and related plants respond to warm, moist growing conditions with visible forms of their life cycles. Fruiting bodies of myriad shapes, sizes and colors appear, sometimes overnight (they thrive in darkness!). The show can be every bit as rewarding as the spring flush of wildflowers…and just as fleeting too.
Mushrooms emerging through a layer of spruce needles
The Ghost Plant (Indian Pipe) made its way into this series on fungi because it lacks chlorophyll and can grow in the dark. In reality, it is a non-photosynthetic flowering plant that parasitizes the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi associated with tree roots.
Despite the warm, moist conditions, my woodlot is devoid of wildflowers. It’s too early, and the cold, snowy weather moving in this direction will hold things up a bit longer. Under the circumstances, I was ecstatic over this brightly colored macro opportunity, discovered while working in the woods:
The erratic weather of March helps explain why the definition of “snow” isn’t as simple as one might think. Yesterday morning I discovered a light coating of “graupel”, one of the many types of snow.
The morning temperature at ground level was in the low teens. Cold!!! That night, super-cooled water droplets in the cloud layer had coated snowflakes, which then fell as tiny white balls called graupel (also soft hail, snow pellets).
Many types of fungi flourish in the warm, damp conditions that accompany early autumn. I don’t know their taxonomy as well as I should, but love to photograph them.
Hollow trees, especially the large, old survivors, are woodland magnets that rarely escape my attention. This old growth sugar maple, a boundary line tree, is one that I always approach with great anticipation – perhaps a fisher, raccoon or owl has taken up residence? I discovered something quite different and unexpected on this trip: mushrooms, growing in the damp, dark recesses of the cavity. The last images in my post are a small sampling of this intriguing microsite.