In warm late autumns, garlic mustard has grown four or five inches tall, its leaves wide and bright. Chickweed has come back all along the paths, and cress has revived in the pools and streams. Skunk cabbage has pushed up all over the swamp, some plants even opening a little. The low sun sets the new plants glowing like they glow in April. At the river’s edge, the water is rippled blue, black, green, and brown, bare tree branches tangled in reflections.
Warmed by the benign autumn and fed by the great stands of honeysuckle throughout the area, robins linger in town and in the woods. Juncos have arrived, and bluebirds make their last passage south along the rivers. Starlings cluck and whistle at sunrise, and cardinals and pileated woodpeckers and bobwhites sing off and on throughout the day. Finches and chickadees work the sweet gum tree fruits, digging out the seeds from their hollows. Sparrow hawks appear on the fences, watching for mice in the bare fields.
Mosquitoes still wait for prey near backwaters and puddles. Asian lady beetles – sometimes great hoards of them - look for crevices in which to spend the winter. Late woolly bear caterpillars, most of them dark orange and black, still emerge in the sun. Cabbage moths still look for cabbage. Yellow jackets sometimes come out to look for fallen fruit. The last daddy longlegs linger in the woodpiles, and crickets still sing in the more gentle evenings.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of late fall. In the meantime, listen for the crickets on milder evenings – they won’t sing for long