The fog and the grasshoppers have arrived, and officially our fall season has begun. Everyone has their favorite month, however, I suspect many of us wouldn’t say September is our favorite.
September, with its warm days and cool nights, has a lot to offer, such as harvest suppers and the last splashes of summer as we leave the hot days of August behind. September is also the official month of the Harvest Moon, which is the name given to the first full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox. The harvest moon rises at the same time for several nights.
Signs of falling are beginning to appear everywhere. Sumac leaves exhibit a tint of yellow and red; robins and other birds gather in small groups, a sure sign that migration is near; the red-headed vultures, seen hovering on the rising air currents, have begun their migration; fall flowers including goldenrod, thistles, chicory, tansy and others are in full bloom.
Some years, spring will be late in coming, but nature will catch up in the fall. Although autumn is still ahead of us with its abundant harvest, the plants are already preparing for next year. Flowers are blooming, fruits are ripening and nuts are starting to fall from the trees, all in preparation for next year. Soon, birds, water, and yes, even humans, will help plants disperse their seeds in favorable locations to ensure the survival of plant species.
It is no coincidence that the plants that produce the most seeds are those that we consider weeds. For example, a mustard plant can mature half a million seeds in a single season; an amaranth plant will produce 200,000 seeds and a purslane plant will also ripen 200,000 seeds in one season. Man still has a lot to learn from nature. Maybe in the future we can mix the mustard plant with the oat plant and come up with an edible plant that would produce an incredible amount of seeds.
If the plant world changes, the insect world also changes. You will never hear more calls, buzzes, clicks, buzzes and chirps of insects than in September.
The Katydids sing their familiar katy-did song, where their name comes from. Early farmers, who used the katydid as a weather prophet, thought the insect said, “six more weeks”, meaning that’s all the time farmers had to harvest their crops and prepare for winter. There were others who believed that the katydid said, “frost is near.” No matter what was correct, when the katydids are heard, we know that summer is coming to an end.
The nights come alive to the sound of the male singing as he spins on his wings, making them vibrate to the rhythm of katy-did. If you listen carefully and use your imagination, he will quickly receive a response that seems to say “katy-didn’t.”
The male does all the singing to the female, which does not sing. Generally, the male begins to sing at dusk and continues his love song throughout the night. Katydids live in trees and shrubs and feed on leaves but do very little damage.
At the beginning of autumn and until the onset of frosts, the female will begin to lay her eggs.
The fog and mist of September mornings are also signs of the changes to come. September dawns can carry cool air, which sinks into the valleys and when it meets the warm ground, the mixture means fog or morning mist. If this fog hangs over a pond or lake, we generally call it fog. Cool morning breezes seem to make the fog dance, and it doesn’t go away until the sun reaches the horizon.
On a September morning, as you drive over one of Pennsylvania’s many high ridges and look down, it seems the valleys are draped in cotton. As you watch, the fog will magically disappear, leaving you wondering where it went.
Human activities that also show signs of falling are the sound of a chainsaw echoing through the woods; roadside stands displaying the fall harvest; sweaters and light jackets appearing on early risers, and of course, those big yellow school buses parked in local garages.
Once the asters appear, I know I better finish the house repair list.
I can’t imagine living in an area where the seasons change little. The changing of the seasons is a special gift from nature. Each season has its own reward, like the beauty of a winter snowstorm; the feeling of renewal in the face of the green and yellow colors of spring; summer days spent enjoying life, and finally, the beauty of autumn with its bountiful harvest. Every season is different, and for me, I appreciate the change as much as the season itself.
Bill Bower is a former wildlife officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Read his blog and listen to his outdoor podcasts at www.onemaningreen.com.