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Poor Will's Almanack: September 27 - October 3, 2016

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The days continue clear and warm and bright. Two weeks ago, much of the landscape was still deep, late-summer green. Now, a few maples and dogwoods are red and orange, cottonwoods and catalpas and sweet gums and shagbark hickories are yellow, and grape vines and nettles are bleached with age. Locust leaves drizzle steadily to the undergrowth. The serviceberries are almost bare. The black walnut trees keep only their last fruit. Purple poison ivy and Virginia creeper outline the changes.

The New England asters are in decline, but the cabbage butterflies still swarm around them. A few rose of Sharon blossoms hold on. The last jumpseeds along the front sidewalk jump when my fingers stroke them.  Dragonflies still hunt our backyard pond. The koi still feed with gusto, their water almost as warm as it was in August. Monarchs and painted ladies and swallowtails come by from time to time.

A cardinal called out at 6:10 this morning, sang off an on for about an hour. Crows came and went. Robins started peeping their migration signals outside in the honeysuckles at 7:04. When I walked the alley before breakfast, I heard starlings whistling and chattering toward downtown. Sitting on the porch at 8:15, I listened to the tapping of a yellow-bellied sapsucker on the siding of the house, an old friend returning from spring on the way back to Tennessee.

Driving south near dusk,  I noticed the milkweed pods were open, glittering, disheveled. When I got back home, a small toad was sitting on my front steps, announcing the first days of the Frog and Toad Migration Moon.

Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the first week of middle fall. In the meantime, don’t forget to look for frogs and toads. Be careful not to step on them.

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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.