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It’s in your nature: Anticipating autumn’s arrival

I don’t like repeating myself, but summer is not my favorite time of the year. The heat, humidity and bugs don’t rank high on my list. If you couple those factors with only adding two more birds to my annual list in the past two months, yeah, bring on fall.

I certainly don’t want to forget though that summer brought a wide array of wildflowers and that wildlife has a much easier time finding food this time of the year. That does balance it out a bit.

When you get outdoors the next few weeks you may want to pay attention to the great variety of mushrooms and their kin benefiting from the abundance of rainfall this year and the optimal warm weather still present. You may also note that pines, firs and hemlocks are heavily laden with their soon ripening cones and weighing down the ends of the limbs.

Squirrels will notice for sure. On forest stumps or old stone fences red squirrels will be chewing away the cone’s scales to reach the tasty seeds.

On the forest floor, and especially along field edges, woodchucks will be gobbling down as much vegetation as they can. It is vital now that they store as much fat as possible, knowing that about the end of October they will head into their burrows to curl up in safety and hibernate for four to five months.

I’ve already noticed the gray squirrels hastily gathering the first shagbark hickory nuts and walnuts. You can find the discarded “husks” piling up where they gnaw away, getting to the fat, rich nuts inside. Squirrels don’t hibernate, but they are caching away all this food for the lean winter months.

Bears, which became more nocturnal in hot July and August, may be seen more regularly now, even in the daytime, because they too must feed heavily. Bears will normally begin denning up somewhere between early December or about Christmastime. (The denning varies a bit due to locally available food and, of course, the true onset of “winter weather.”)

I find September and October giving me a second chance to see many more birds. In the mornings over the next few weeks, waves of warblers, flycatchers, vireos and kinglets will begin dropping into the trees in your neighborhoods after an exhausting night of migration. Their numbers are actually higher now than spring, bolstered by the young of the year making their first trips to wintering areas.

It may be harder to recognize some of these birds because many are no longer in their breeding plumage. If you have a good bird guide, it may show you breeding and fall plumage photos.

Also take note, the field and tree katydids are rasping away now, and the evenings have new added sounds.

Last of note, the walnuts are already dropping some of their leaves, and if you are really observant, even the red maples are hinting at a bit of color. At least I know I’m looking forward to those crisp mornings, so for me, bring on autumn.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: Spiders have ___ eyes. A. 2, B. 3, C. 8, D. no

Last Week’s True and False Question: False, a spider does not suck its prey empty. A spider actually eats (chews) its prey after softening it with its digestive juices that it ejects onto it.

Contact Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com.

As the late summer temperatures slowly drop, black bears may become more diurnal trying to find more food to build up the fat needed for their winter denning. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
The ripening shagbark hickories signal a feeding “frenzy” as squirrels begin harvesting and caching away the fruits. On this morning outing, the ground was littered with the hickory nuts and pieces of the chewed hulls.
Not only are nuts craved by squirrels, but cones from white pines, spruces, and hemlock, pictured here, are cut and the ripening seeds inside are eaten.
Mushrooms of all kinds seem to be everywhere as August's showers moisten the forest floor.