Slow Changes, or Not So Much?

The sun had finally come out for the first time in almost a week. The warmth was welcome, even though it did little to actually warm the fall air. This is the first time I ventured out into the woods toting a real, good quality camera – borrowed from my gracious roommate. I was eager to capture the small details of my site, things easily overlooked and not so easily shown in the other pictures I’d taken on my phone. The ground and pathways through Centennial were thoroughly saturated with rain, most of them pooling with mud puddles that squished up around my shoes when I walked through them.

Upon examination of a few of the larger logs downed at my site, I managed to unearth an eastern red-backed salamander. I was surprised to see one this late in the season, as they typically begin to burrow into the mud and hibernate once the temperatures during the day hit the 30s or 40s in Fahrenheit, but it seemed like this one was enjoying one last day under the sun. Likely it was looking for food, as these little guys tend to feed on a large variety of invertebrates typically found in damp, dark places – such as the log I poked around under. With the recent rain and the sudden ‘bloom’ of earthworms that I had seen on campus – I wonder if he had followed the feast to the surface.

As for the rest of my area, it looks a lot different. Most of the trees have dumped their leaves on the ground, leaving a colorful, fast-fading blanket on the dirt below. Of the trees that are still clinging to their leaves, the color is a vibrant, beautiful yellow that has not yet faded. The reds and oranges are long gone, but the yellow still remains. The birds I encountered at my last visit were either quiet or not around, save for a solitary crow fluttering his way between the trees in the area. Every so often, he let out a throaty squawk, and eventually flew away to go haunt some other area of the forest. The whole place seems like its going to sleep – the ferns are starting to wither as well, as I found no marsh fern left behind, and observed the lady ferns starting to curl in on themselves. The buckthorn plants have less leaves on them, as do the honeysuckle, and after the heavy rains, I found an abundance of mushrooms hiding in the crevices of trees and underneath the logs down across the path. I almost feel like I know this place better after rain then after a week in the sun, as I’ve pretty much only seen it after downpours.

The changes have been so subtle, I wonder if I’ve missed something big. The hemlock and the pine look no different, and the rest of the trees stand tall above me, mostly leafless branches swaying in the wind, doing what they’ve done every year since they’ve sprouted.

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