Grass doesn't get a lot of appreciation aside from lawns and hayfields, but grasses play an essential role in ecosystem health. When soil is disturbed by hurricane, fire or logging, grasses take quick advantage of. Dormant seeds awaiting the right conditions sprout and up come the grasses.
On a rare warm-for-late-November afternoon, a tiny cloud of swarming insects dances in a slanting sunbeam – tiny midges!
Late autumn midge swarms are the last free-flying insects following hard freezes. They emerge for one last dance in fading sunlight just before the entire insect “Queendom” collapses under snow as the natural year closes.
Midges comprise a huge group of insects with estimates of more than 10,000 species worldwide.
Fall migration has wrapped up for all but a few bird species. This semi-annual rite of passage typically follows predictable timetables and geographic routes. Exceptions to the rule, "irruptive" species, are northerners that head this way certain winters, driven out of their home territories by food scarcity.
November becomes fitful; restless. Its moods teeter toward somber: steely-gray or blue and cold. Even under fair skies, low-angle sunlight triggers some ancestral longing – winter is coming and pantries, root cellars and woodsheds should be chock-full.
Traditionally, November was the time for butchering livestock. Indoors, it remains “kitchen season.” The Thanksgiving holiday is a time to cook and eat - and then yawn and nap. Outdoors, it’s “forest season” custom-made for cutting wood or deer hunting at classic rustic, North Country hunting camps.
Robert Frost ended a short poem on life and nature with the line, "Nothing gold can stay." October has ended after delivering golden fall days that make us regret the indoor tendencies of our lives. Stark November is at the doorstep now. We reacquaint ourselves with ridge-lines visible through bare trees and with stone walls along fields cleared and worked in a time when days were spent more outdoors than in.
Do you know New Hampshire is home to seven national champion “Big Trees?” These are the largest examples of their species discovered nationwide. New Hampshire hosts the largest black locust, mountain-ash, pitch pine, eastern white pine, black spruce, staghorn sumac and black birch in the entire US. They’re among 760 champion trees documented by The NH Big Tree Program.
A recent American Forests magazine featured NH's Big Tree program and highlighted efforts by dedicated volunteers searching for the biggest trees in the state.
October 18 is the Full Hunter's Moon, and heading south now are hunters of a different sort: turkey vultures, scavengers that feed on carrion.
Unlike other birds, this species has a uniquely developed sense of smell that guides them to their next meal. Weak fliers, turkey vultures are skilled at hitching rides on air currents. Rarely flapping, they hold their wings in a V angle and wobble a bit while gliding. Because of their large size, they're often misidentified as eagles, but eagles power along, strong and steady in flight, never tipsy.
For homeowners, the floating, spinning or tumbling tree seeds that collect on lawns, patios, gutters and driveways require raking or sweeping. Those "pesky" shade trees! Yet consider the tremendous wildlife food source and genetic wealth that seed crops represent, particularly cyclical acorn crops in NH!
At Carter Hill Orchard in Concord, the changing varieties of ripe apples measure out the transition of summer into autumn. Early Paula Reds, which ripen in August, give way to tart McIntoshes, juicy Macouns, and sweet Cortlands, as September wears on. By early October, yellowed leaves and frosty mornings signal late-season apples with appropriate names: Gibson Golden and Honey Crisp.
Twenty five years ago, bald eagles and peregrine falcons were struggling to return from the brink of extinction. A handful of outdated surveys were all that existed to assess the location and condition of most wildlife species. Conservationists and biologists from New Hampshire Audubon, the State, and universities raised the call to "do something!"
A lot of people are asking this question, concerned at the diminished numbers of this most charismatic butterfly. Not many schoolchildren this fall will be able to watch caterpillar transform into chrysalis and then glorious adult—metamorphosis in action.
Monarchs are celebrated for their fall migration to Mexico, but the population that spends the wintering there is experiencing a decline. In fact, this past winter it was the lowest on record.
A scent of ripeness from over a wall. And come to leave the routine road And look for what had made me stall, There sure enough was an apple tree That had eased itself of its summer load, And of all but its trivial foliage free…
It is the height of monarch butterfly season in New Hampshire. Though fewer migrants have returned this year. They're producing the generation that will undertake one of the most impressive migrations: two-thousand miles to overwinter in Mexico.
Adult butterflies feed on the nectar of many different flowers but require very specific plants when laying their eggs. Eggs hatch into caterpillars that feed only on the leaves of particular species.
Forests are often bone dry at the end of the hot summer. When dusty leaves of poison ivy and wild grape vines display the first crimson tinge of fall, underground “yellow-jacket” hornet nests reach their maximum annual size and ferocity beneath brushy fields and woodlands.
The papery hornet nests are packed with nutritious, fat and protein-rich larvae. The grubs are defended aggressively by agitated worker hornets that will soon lie dead after the first hard freeze.