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Misty Morning Stop

November 23, 2009

Fall, apparently fed up with the two months of unrequited flirtation, has decided come on strong in the past week in North Carolina.  Three days of rain have left the Poplars and Sweet Gums as bare as a Wall Street banker’s conscience, and the only trees with any leaves of note are the Oaks.  They always seems like prudes to me anyways, they way they cling to their brown, dead leaves all the way through the winter, as though they’re ashamed of their knobby naked form, something that doesn’t concern the tall straight Poplars.  They know bald is beautiful, baby.  Someone should let those Quercus in on it.

The humidity in the air gave the morning a sort of foggy mysterious feel, accented by the sweet slurry song of a Fox Sparrow just of the trail.  I love sparrows that  sing year round, though when I think on it, from a sparrow’s perspective there’s probably little climatic difference between a chilly fall morning in Carolina and a spring day in boreal Canada.  A day like this must feel practically familiar, enough for the bird to burst into song.

The Fox Sparrows were probably the bird of the morning for me.  The mix of gray and rust red is such an attractive combination, especially when applied to a pallet of giant sparrow.  It just works.  And I may not know art, but I knows what I likes.

Also a fine addition to the avifauna of the morning were the resident families of Red-headed Woodpeckers eagerly caching away acorns for the winter.  I have a feeling they’re going to do well this year, as the acorn crop is bountiful.  See, two years ago we had a drought in most of the Southeast, the severity of which cannot really be overstated.  It was a once in a century occurrence according to the experts and by the time it finally broke, the Triangle, a metro area of nearly 1.5 million people, was down to about 30 days of water left.  We’re still feeling the effects, but in a positive way.  Red Oaks, by which I mean the entire family of trees that includes Southern Red, Black, Scarlet among others, grow acorns over a period of two years while the White Oak group only takes one.

In response to the drought two years ago, Oaks put all their energy into flowering as opposed to the regular growth in leaves and stems in normal years.  Two years later, we’ve got a bumper crop of red oak acorns all over the region that augment the annual white oak harvest, which is good news for species that depend on them to get through the winter.  Woodpeckers should do well, as well as Blue Jays, Turkey, Squirrels, Deer (as if we needed more of them), and probably Black Bear out west and east.  In any case, the Red-heads had their work cut out for them.

Perhaps that’s why so many of the Oak trees were still bearing leaves.  They were trying to squeeze the last drop of energy from the rays of the sun to push those acorns across the finish line.  Those that had southern exposure were still leafing out as you can see above, and there’s still some traces of fall color.

It appears fall is here for good at last, might as well welcome it all the way in.

  1. November 23, 2009 11:51 am

    I don’t mean to correct you, but shouldn’t the title be “Misty Mountain Hop”?

    And I knows that I likes the Foxes too.

  2. Nate permalink*
    November 23, 2009 12:38 pm

    @Jochen- There were no mountains and minimal hopping. But you did see through my lame attempt at punnery.

  3. November 24, 2009 7:54 am

    Nothing’s lame that combines Fox Sparrows with Led Zeppelin!

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