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It’s in your nature: What nature has in store for us in the next few weeks

I just opened up some of my nature journals to review my notes. Most of my yearly entries are from either spring or early autumn. Those notes indicated what you can expect in the next few weeks. It’s a great time to be “outdoors,” so give it a shot.

As you read this Saturday morning column, do so by sitting on your deck or porch and look overhead. The peak migration of blue jays begins about the end of September and continues for a few weeks. Unlike warblers and flycatchers that migrate at night and mysteriously appear in your woodlots, the jays are diurnal migrants.

My backyard offered me a good location to watch jays flying just above the tree line. One morning I pulled out the folding chair, grabbed my tally counter and started counting. It was Oct. 1, shortly after a weak cold front had passed. In the next two hours I observed flock after flock of jays, and before long I had recorded over 800 passing near my East Penn Township home. They flew in staggered flocks, 10, 15 or even 30 at a time. I would surmise they’re flying over your home, whether it’s Lehighton, Jim Thorpe or Nesquehoning.

As the sun warmed the morning, I also was treated to a number of monarch butterflies still heading south. Look for them now, too.

Now is a good time to clean out your bird feeders and stock them. My notes remind me that the last chipping sparrows will stop by for a snack “bulling up” for their short migration, and about Oct. 10 or 15 the first juncos make an appearance. Red-breasted nuthatches usually make their first appearance at my feeders about this time, too. To increase your chance at seeing and keeping them around, put out a suet block.

For those who hike forested trails, begin looking for “buck scrapes.” Male deer begin their annual preparations for breeding season. The bucks and does will find a branch a bit higher than their head and rub their preorbital glands on the lower limbs. The bucks will use their front feet to scrape the ground bare beneath those branches then urinating there to attract does or to “notify” competition that he’s staking claim to this area. The “rut” will begin shortly.

If you aren’t walking in nature, I’m sure your trips to and from the store, school or shopping will afford you visual stimulation as the red maples, black gums, and sweet birch start “coloring” the nearby forests. Expect the leaf colors in the Times News region to peak between Oct. 15 and 20.

Now is also the time to follow the activity of squirrels gathering mast. If you see a woodchuck, it may be his last days above ground until late March. Finally, step outside at dusk, or even better, before sunrise, and listen for great horned owls calling. October is the time they begin “pairing up” and you can enjoy their hooting conversations. The smell of autumn’s fallen leaves can now be appreciated, too. So get out there and enjoy the sights, sounds and “smells” of this season.

Test Your Outdoor Knowledge: True/False, only deciduous trees begin dropping their leaves in autumn.

Last Week’s Trivia Answer: Hawk Mountain’s highest ONE DAY count of migrating broad-winged hawks was 11,000.

Contact Barry Reed at breed71@gmail.com.

Take advantage of what beauty the Times News area offers and enjoy the beauty of our changing leaves in the next two or three weeks. BARRY REED/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Blue jays from regions to our north will be migrating through our area now. Find a spot, sit and look for them migrating just above the treetops.
Squirrels, both gray and red squirrels like this one, are now at a frenetic pace to gather up mast to cache for the winter. Sit and watch the constant activity.
Woodchucks will be feasting on grasses and ground vegetation in preparation for their hibernation soon to begin.