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Poor Will's Almanack: October 6 - 12, 2020

Fall maple leaf
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Poor Will’s Almanack for the first week of Middle Fall, the final week of the Winter Grain Planting Moon. It is the third week of the Sun in Libra.

Throughout the Lower Midwest and the East, Middle Fall usually lasts from early October through the first week or two of November. This is the period of peak maple and oak coloring, followed by the most intense leafdrop of ash, locust, hickory, red mulberry, cottonwood, crab apple, redbud, box elder, buckeye and black walnut trees.

A few crickets still sing in the warmest evenings of Middle Fall, and the last daddy longlegs huddle together in the woodpiles. Mosquitoes still wait for prey near backwaters and puddles. Late woolly bear caterpillars still emerge on backroads when the asphalt is hot from the sun. Cabbage butterflies still look for cabbages. Yellow jackets still come out to look for fallen fruit.

The last monarchs depart and swallowtails disappear as the high canopy thins. Chimney swifts, wood thrushes, barn swallows and red-eyed vireos move south. Long flocks of blackbirds migrate across the countryside.

Fed by the summer’s berries, robins linger in town and in the woods. Starlings cluck and whistle at sunrise, and cardinals and pileated woodpeckers and wrens sing off and on throughout the day. Finches work the sweet gum tree fruits. Sparrow hawks appear on the fences, watching for mice in the bare fields. Goldfinches, which often stay year-round, lose all their bright plumage; they are brown for winter.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of Middle Fall. In the meantime, even if personal or social events seem to complicate your life, find sense and comfort entering into and watching the autumn changes.

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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.