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Poor Will's Almanack: October 11 - 17, 2011

Flickr Creative Commons user GregTheBusker
Wolly bear caterpillar

Poor Will’s Almanack for the First Week of Middle Fall.

The English poet Shelly wrote about these days --

the noon of autumn’s glow,
When a soft and purple mist,
Like a vaporous amethyst,.....
Fills the overflowing sky.

This week, Middle Autumn, the noon of autumn’s glow, arrives all along the 40th Parallel. The ashes, redbuds and hickories, many still bright gold and red, shed quickly, and the land enters the threshold of full maple-turn. The early trees are almost gone. Black walnut leaves and the serviceberries are down. Catalpas are bare, beans left swinging in the wind.

This week's cold front brings the best chance so far in the season for frost, and the steady advance of high-pressure systems across the nation accelerates the movement of chimney swifts, wood thrushes, barn swallows and red-eyed vireos south. Great flocks of blackbirds and robins migrate down the valleys.  Yellow-bellied sapsuckers move through the woods. Spider webs disappear. Woolly bear caterpillars, however, multiply, sometimes swarm across the roads on sunny afternoons.

Next week on Poor Will's Almanack: notes for the Second Week of Middle Fall. In the meantime, spend a little time outside in the evening listening to the crickets. Only a few more weeks remain before the Late Fall puts an end to their mating songs.

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.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.