Oct 16 2008

What to Look For: Late October

Published by at 7:15 am under Migration,Phenology

Flowering Dogwood in fall colors (photo by Chuck Tague)Phenology: The study of biological activity patterns through the seasons … or … (my definition) a list of what nature is doing at a particular time of year.

Chuck Tague, who supplies me with beautiful pictures like this one, used to write a newsletter called The Nature Observer News.  The other day I was reminiscing about the list of “What to Look For” that he published every other week.  With Chuck’s list, I’d be fired up and eager to go outdoors to find the birds and plants he told me about.

Last week I asked Chuck if he’d consider sending me an abbreviated phenology for southwestern Pennsylvania so I could put it in the BirdBlog every month. Happily, he was thinking of reviving it on his own and said I could piggyback. 

Chuck just launched his complete list for late October on his new blog, The Nature Observer’s Journal.  I’ll do a tease once or twice a month.  This is the first – a hint of the treasures Chuck promises in southwestern Pennsylvania in late October:

  • Fall colors reach their peak, especially red and sugar maples.
  • First frost around October 20.  First hard frost around Halloween.
  • It’s hunting season! Wear blaze orange and be aware of PA’s hunting seasons.  Remember: Though Sunday is generally safer, some game can be hunted on Sundays.
  • The first wave of ducks and geese migrate through our area.
  • Hawk watches see lots of sharp-shinned and red-tailed hawks.
  • Golden eagle migration peaks at the Allegheny Front in the third week of October.
  • White-throated sparrows, dark-eyed juncos and American tree sparrows arrive to stay through the winter.
  • Big flocks begin to form at dusk and dawn: grackles, robins, starlings and (my favorite) crows.
  • Pitt’s peregrines stay active on migration days as food (small birds) and threats (other hawks) fly by.
  • Most flowers have gone to seed but watch for blooming witch hazel, closed gentian, hardy goldenrods and asters.
  • New moon on October 28.  No moonlight on Halloween.
  • By October 31 in Pittsburgh, sunrise will be at 7:52am, sunset at 6:13pm.
  • We’ll change the clocks back to Standard Time on November 2. Then sunrise will be at 6:55am, sunset at 5:11pm. Evening rush hour in the dark!

For Chuck’s complete phenology for late October, click here.

(photo of Flowering Dogwood by Chuck Tague)

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “What to Look For: Late October”

  1. Lindaon 16 Oct 2008 at 2:59 pm

    I enjoyed reading “what’s to come” but I don’t like the idea of driving home from work in the dark. I wish we would just leave the time alone.
    I am looking forward to having the Junco’s back at my feeder this winter along with the cardinals and the sparrows.
    I would like to know if you can recommend a way to keep water out in the winter for the birds so that it won’t freeze.
    Thanks as always.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 16 Oct 2008 at 3:10 pm

    There are two ways to provide water for the birds in winter. One is a heated birdbath (the birdbath itself plugs in), the other is a birdbath heater (something you immerse in the birdbath). You can buy either of these at garden shops and birdseed stores. To see them online, try http://www.birdbath.com

  3. Marcy Cunkelmanon 16 Oct 2008 at 5:35 pm

    I also use a heated dog dish and put rocks in it so it doesn’t blow away andso it isn’t too deep for the birds…sometimes the birds, esp the song sparrow, will keep trying to get a bath, even with the rocks.

    I too am not ready to have more dark than daylight.

  4. Libby Strizzion 17 Oct 2008 at 8:45 am

    I have tried both methods. Both are thermostatically controlled to turn on when the water temp gets below about 42 degrees. First I tried the heater in the birdbath. It worked, but it was a little tricky getting the heater to stay placed properly in the birdbath. Then I wondered how much the electricity cost using the heater. I can’t remember the math now, but I think we concluded about $10 a month. Cheap enuf, but then Candy Gonzales of New Castle recommended the heated dog dish (which you can buy inexpensively at a place like Wal-Mart). She said its electrical cost was cheaper. And it’s easy to use since the heater is built in. The dog dish is quite large and deep, so adding a couple of rocks gives birds something to stand on.

  5. Lindaon 17 Oct 2008 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you, I will look into both options. I look forward to taking care of the birds this winter.

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