The flaming foliage that fueled the tourist industry a month ago is now in the business of soil enrichment. The thick layer of leaves on the forest floor is already decomposing and adding nutrients and organic matter to the soil. The annual cycle is nearly complete, and all will benefit, from fungi and amphibians to the massive oaks and the wildlife that depend on them. Is there a better example of recycling? Doubt it.
Fortunately, Mother Nature is kind enough to return with an encore performance, giving nature lovers one more peak at colorful leaves before winter. Several tree species, the beeches, oaks, aspens and larches included, don’t show off their fall colors until late October and early November. This past week I photographed Quaking Aspen and American Beech in local woodlots to illustrate.
Beech, with a background of aspen
Aspen along the edge of a small stream
Beech on aspen
Aspen leaf adrift in the surface film of a small stream
Mature aspen, with years of snow and ice damage reflected in an irregular crown
The first snow of the season left its mark on the landscape, in a pleasant sort of way (I don’t dare say that in the village, for fear of being shot). Unfortunately, a cold rain followed, turning the snow into slippery slush.
There was a narrow window of opportunity for “snow shots” this morning, before the rain, and these are some of the highlights.
Cultivated red raspberry, second fruiting
Quaking Aspen leaf
Sugar Maple leaf
Yearling white-tail feeding on persistent foliage (before I showed up)
I follow the bloom of a group of wild swamp roses along the edge of a swamp. They appear to be thriving in several inches of water and muck, their feet wet year-round; an incredible display of site adaptation and tolerance.
Bees swarm the blossoms, presenting a target-rich environment for my favorite Arachnid: the Flower Spider. Also called Goldenrod Spider or Crab Spider, they’re an impressive ambush predator with a deadly toxin that immobilizes prey instantly. Bees are common prey, but I’ve photographed Flower Spiders with kills as large as the Tiger Swallowtail butterfly and Hummingbird Moth (Clearwing) in their grasp!
The spring songbird migration coincides with with the explosion of floral and vegetative growth in deciduous trees and shrubs. It’s a thrilling dynamic and wonderful time of year to become immersed in the great outdoors!
New foliage on a maple in early May
Change is rapid, every day a new palette, and “here today, gone tomorrow” describes my experience with many migrating songbirds. Two days ago there were vibrant colors and sweet songs everywhere. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were low and at the feeders, Baltimore Orioles high above, foraging in the tree canopies.
Cornell, on its “All About Birds” website, describes the Rose-breasted Grosbeak as an “exclamation mark” at feeders. So true – for the brilliant male! However, females are easily overlooked or miss-identified, especially when the huge bill isn’t clearly visible.
I was amused to see that a bird with a massive, seed- and fruit- crunching bill would be interested in the smallest of seeds at the openings of the goldfinch tube feeder.
Some of these grosbeaks will remain while others will continue their northerly migration and search for summer nesting habitat. The low woody vegetation of young forests and forest edges is their target.
In the Spring season my arboriculture activities tend to be a function of the weather: I prefer to prune trees when it’s cold, before the sap flows, and plant trees when the soil is “workable”. These types of activities are officially recognized and celebrated on National Arbor Day, which is the last Friday in April in this geographic region.
This year my “poster tree” for Arbor Day is a massive, open grown sycamore. American Sycamore grows naturally in flood plains and bottomlands. It, and numerous cultivars and hybrids, are also cultivated in landscapes where there is sufficient space for a very large, deciduous tree.