Second Visit

Two weeks had passed since I had been to my phenology site last. It was a considerably sunnier day, though the air was colder, much more reminiscent of a fall day than the previous. There was a fairly strong breeze, and barely a cloud in the sky. Back in the woods, underneath the shade of trees, it was much colder, but in the sun, I felt the need to take off my jacket as I walked. It was about noon when I arrived.

Though some time had passed for me since I had been there, not much had changed in the area. Much of the vegetation looked the same, especially throughout the understory. The hardwood trees had definitely started to lose more of their leaves – the ground was blanketed in mostly maple leaves of varying colors, mostly yellow but each a little different than the next, some with splotches of red. The white oak at the center of my area was mostly unchanged, still retaining green in many of its leaves. I had to sift through the many maple leaves on the ground to even come across a few downed brown oak leaves, and there were even less needles from the pine trees around. The ferns, like the maples, had started to shift as well, many of the pinna starting to yellow or wither as the increasingly colder weather began to get to them. Many of the lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina) retained their dark green color and have not yet started to yellow; the other type of fern common in my site, what I think is marsh fern (Thelypteris palustris), has begun to yellow. Other woody plants in the understory have stayed very green in coloration much like the lady fern. At that point, temperatures hadn’t quite gotten so cold, so maybe that had some sort of effect on the longevity of the plant life.

This time, however, I was not alone with the plants. There were a few types of birds that I got to see this time through. The songs of blue jays were loud that day, and even though I didn’t see them they overpowered a lot of the other birds that were singing in the area. In the lulls between their calls, I heard the familiarĀ chickadee-dee-deeĀ call, and sure enough there were two black-capped chickadees above me, happily flitting around the branches. They seemed unbothered by my presence, hanging upside down on the branches above my head and giving me a once over before disappearing off into the trees somewhere else. Some time passed, and I was recording some observations when I noticed a strange hollow tapping sound coming from somewhere in the trees. At first, I couldn’t tell what direction it came from, but eventually I found the source – a pileated woodpecker tapping away at the dead snag diagonally west from the center oak. The snag is a tall, dead conifer of some kind. The wood is just starting to go soft, so I assume its a great place for the woodpecker to find food. I watched him from a log beneath the dead tree for a while, tapping decidedly then moving his head back and forth to decide his next strike. Eventually, he’d decided he’d had enough, and I watched him go to somewhere else in the forest.

When I left, I watched a crow land in a nearby maple, calling to the rest of its friends. I’d collected some leaves from various woody plants and shrubs and pieces from the two types of ferns, so that I could identify them later. The walk back was pleasant, warmer than the walk there. I can only hope for days this nice in the coming weeks.

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