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Tell Tale Signs of Fall

Signs of Autumn are everywhere. Besides the obvious fall leaves changing beautiful colors, have you seen anything else while visiting the parks? There are multiple exciting things happening in nature during fall. See if you can spot the following items at different times of the day:


Morning 

Dew on Spider Webs: our 8-legged arachnid friends build webs to snare their prey all year round. During the fall after nice rains or cool mornings you will see evidence of these webs on plants, fences and stone walls. Our Funnel spiders, also known as Grass Spiders (Family Agelenidae) spin sheet webs of nonsticky silk with a characteristic funnel extending to one side. A web is spun above the funnel where the spider hides while waiting for prey. Spiders are very beneficial predators of insects. According to legend, when there is dew on Grass Spider webs, it will be a beautiful day.

funnel web 2


Afternoon

White Snakeroot Flowers: this nondescript weed has been growing all spring and summer and pops with beautiful white flowers in Autumn. It is one of the last wild natives (Ageratina altissima) to bloom which helps hungry insects such as bees, moths and flies furiously foraging before weather turns to cold. Afternoon winds pick up and carry away their fuzzy-tailed seeds. Unfortunately, this beautiful white flower has a sordid history. This plant has a toxin called tremetol and when eaten by cows can cause their milk to be tainted. Milk sickness claimed the life of Abraham Lincoln’s mother when he was only 9 years old.

White Snakeroot flower


Evening

Flocks: Why do our feathered friends congregate or flock together when the colder weather arrives? During the breeding season, three is a crowd. But during fall and winter, many of our local birds survive the winter in numbers. A large group makes an individual bird less likely to be eaten by a predator. There are more eyes looking out for trouble and therefore a better chance to signal a warning call. A large group is more difficult for a predator to “hunt” and focus on one individual. 1 or 2 birds can keep “sentry” duty while the rest of the flock can eat. Birds consume more food to keep their metabolism up so they don’t starve to death during the cold, long winter nights.

cedar waxwing flock