Sunday, October 12, 2014

October 12, 2014

It's Columbus Day weekend and the fall colors are peaking right on schedule around Lake Wicwas.  The maples are deep red and orange, and the beech are starting to turn bright yellow.  The small deciduous trees right along the shore provide a brilliant contrast to the dark green of the pines behind them.

A couple of rare Black Gum trees add to the variety of hues.

Black Gum (Tupelo)
I have heard the loud report of shot guns just before dawn this past week, as duck season is now open.  The hunters are on shore and on boats, getting positioned before day-break to get the first shot of the day.  I know they've been on land when they leave an unfortunate calling card.

It's too bad one careless hunter can hurt the reputation of what are usually careful users of property.

But they haven't found all the birds, as I often flush out a group of ducks when I walk along the shore, and I caught this group out for a fall foliage tour.

The water is getting cold, but it is still warm enough to put off mist on a cold morning.

One day there were unusually tall, thin columns of mist reaching up to the sky.

The cause of this phenomenon is unknown to me.

In what is yet another warm fall, Lake Wicwas had its first frost just last night, and then only in open areas with no trees overhead where radiational cooling allowed the temperature to drop just below freezing.  Only the smallest of leaves raised just enough off the warm ground showed any frost.

There has been an abundance of acorns this year, with large, heavy nuts covering the ground under the oak trees. 
Acorns from Red Oak

I heard a science report explaining why two or three years of low acorn production is followed by a heavy crop (called a mast year).  If the oaks generated the same number of acorns every year, the animals that eat them - squirrels, mice, deer, turkey - would reach equilibrium with the crop, where there would be just enough animals to eat all the nuts.  But this would mean very few seeds survive to germinate.  So the trees have evolved to limit acorn production for a few years to reduce the population of the consumers.  Then they produce a bumper crop, with far more nuts than the population can possibly consume, leaving plenty to survive into spring.  Of course, the high food year produces lots of offspring for those animals the following year, which is then followed by an increase in the next level of animals in the food chain: owls, hawks, fox, fisher, and other predators.  But all these acorns should provide sustenance for healthy deer and turkey populations this winter.

But let's not rush winter.  The fall colors should last another week, so next weekend should provide one more opportunity for leaf peeping.  At least one loon is still on the lake, enjoying the beauty of autumn at Lake Wicwas.


  1. I'm wondering if the female loon and the chicks have left the lake. I haven't seen them around lately--just the male swimming all by himself.

  2. I haven't seen the chick for several days either, but I'm not convinced it has left yet. Chicks usually stay as long as they can. I always wonder how they know where to go....