Wednesday September 23rd was the first official day of fall. For those of us in denial about summer ending, the calendar is something we would like to turn to the wall but unfortunately nature is not one to coddle us. The nights are distinctly cooler now. Although the first frosts usually show up here in northern New Hampshire about the first week or two of September, they have been delayed allowing us to play ‘let’s pretend’ a bit longer. But now the first frost advisories have been posted and the leaves are inexorably if slowly beginning to change color.
Last Wednesday I went for my morning walk, a regime I follow in order to put off joining the wheeled walker brigade for as long as possible. The sound of flapping caught my attention and saw what at first I took to be two crows diving around the tree branches, the first crow making an odd rattling noise that apparently indicates extreme terror. The reason became quickly apparent, for the second bird was not a crow at all but a hawk.
The crow did some pretty fancy aerial acrobatics, enough so he was able to elude his attacker by the skin of his beak, the hawk finally breaking off, apparently giving it up as a bad job. Though it flew off before I had a chance to memorize its markings, it was likely a broad-winged hawk. I don’t recall that it had any black bands on its tail so it was possibly a juvenile. Peterson’s Guide describes this species as being ‘crow-sized’, which sounds about right. Northern New Hampshire has a wide variety of hawk species both large and small, Coopers Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Red Tailed Hawk, among others. This is likely a good year for them for as I mentioned in my previous post, this is a mast year with abundant acorns, pine cones and other fruit. I have already noticed an increase in the grey squirrel and chipmunk populations feasting on the nuts so there is plenty for the hawks to eat. Many of them will fly south for the winter but a few hardy souls will hang around and stick it out through the cold weather.
We are finally getting some badly needed rain.
The past few months have been unusually dry with local brooks starting to dry up and rivers being reduced to streams. But with the weather now beginning to shift, rain clouds have shown up with potentially heavy showers and the weather man has hinted we might even see some rain from Tropical Storm Joaquin by next week. Seems to be feast or famine these days.
Just prior to the rain showing up, white mushrooms starting popping up on my front lawn. I had watered the gardens with a sprinkler hose and as some of the moisture inevitably landed on the grass; the sudden bonanza of water likely triggered their appearance. I have no idea what species it is and as I am not a mushroom aficionado, have no interest in determining if it is edible or not. It is usually best to assume all are poisonous which for me takes the guesswork out of it. Those of you who are the adventurous types can make the determination. For anyone who samples one, natural selection will quickly weed out anyone who didn’t do their mushroom homework.
As for what the coming winter will be like, that depends on who you like to get your weather prognostications from. The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting another shivery winter for New England. However others are suggesting the El Nino currently building up over the Pacific may produce a milder winter than usual though everybody seems to hedging their bets. For those of you who like to watch for weather omens from Mother Nature and place great faith in the color pattern of woolly bears the disappointing truth is, that the coloration is genetically determined. I have seen varying patterns on different caterpillars in the same year so unless you want to assume some of them are trying to pull the wool over our eyes (sorry, couldn’t resist), you won’t find any certainty there either.
For now, let’s just enjoy the fall weather, with the accompanying show to be put on throughout October by the trees changing color, along with birds flocking together in preparation for migration, and all do our best in trying to ignore those nasty little white flakes starting to wing their way out of the sky to whiten the mountaintops of northern New Hampshire.