Poor Will’s Almanack for the Fourth Week of Early Fall.
The last week of Early Fall is the week the first slate-gray junco arrives for winter. Goldenrod is seeding now, pods of the eastern burning bush are open, hawthorn berries redden, wild grapes are purple, and the tree line that seemed so deep in summer just days ago is suddenly poised to break into its final glory of the year.
When juncos arrive, streaks of scarlet appear on the oaks, shades of pink on the dogwoods. The ashes show red or gold; the catalpas and the cottonwoods blanch. Shagbark hickories, tulip trees, sassafras, elms, locusts and sweet gums change to full yellow, merge with the swelling orange of the maples to create a bright archway into middle fall.
When the first junco appears, the terns and meadowlarks, yellow-rumped warblers and purple martins migrate. Hawks move south, often resting on fences and high wires to look for prey.
As the canopy thins, the tall sedums begin to relinquish their petals, and autumn crocuses die back. August’s jumpseeds are jumping, touch-me-nots popping, thimble plants unraveling. The toothed leaves of beggarticks darken overnight.
Next week on Poor Will’s Almanack: notes for the First Week of Middle Fall. In the meantime, watch for the bright red and gold ash trees to drop their leaves, leaving Middle Fall to the best of the maples.
Poor Will’s Almanack for 2012, fourteen months and 300 pages of seasonal essays, notes on farming and gardening, weather, phenology, astronomical information, puzzles with cash prizes, and reader stories is now available. More information can be found at poorwillsalmanack.com.