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Poor Will's Almanack: September 9 - 15, 2014

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Celina Massa
/
Flickr Creative Commons

Catching late summer in its great circular web, the giant arabesque orbweaver spins its patterns in time with the last wildflowers and the first dusky shadows on the high trees. In the woods webs of the smaller but more common micrathena spiders often block your August paths.

As though spooked by the imposing arachnids, hickory nuts all come down, and windfall apples and peaches feed the yellow jackets. The markers of late summer, the burdock, ragweed, knotweed, boneset, Joe Pye weed, field thistles, coneflowers and oxeye all retreat. Following the spider forecasts, the damp mornings and evenings call toadstools from the lawn and pasture, and fat, white puffball mushrooms from the woods.

Touch-me-not pods explode now when tapped lightly, the plants and flowers old. The fat, bumpy fruits of the osage orange thump to the ground, their slow decay over the next six months measuring the days to March.

The rich scent of late summer pollen is almost gone by end of the week, replaced by the more pungent odor of the change in season. Sycamores, locust, elms, box elders, chinquapin oaks, lindens and redbuds show their autumn colors. Bittersweet berries are orange now, elderberries deep purple.

When the orbweavers weave their webs, the crows wake at 7:00 in the morning, like they do at the end of March, a harsh replacement for summer’s robins and cardinals and doves. They will stay in murders (that’s the name for a flock of crows) throughout the winter until they pair for mating in the early spring.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of early fall. In the meantime, be on the lookout for the wide, round webs of the orbweavers.

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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.