Sunday, October 11, 2009

Columbus Day Weekend --- Changing colors and migrating Lesser Yellowlegs

The leaves are reaching their peak color. The Columbus Day weekend  is peak leaf peeping time. You can't get anywhere fast today. It says something good about our nation when this spectacle attracts so many people..

Vermont is known for the brilliant red fall color of the Sugar Maple, but I prefer an earlier phase, when there is a mingling of green, yellow and red, a reminder of the bitter-sweet inexorable passage of time

Here are some of my other favorites trees:

The Quaking Aspen looks like it's shivering, with its leaves like so many gold coins. These trees propagate by sending up new shoots from an extensive root system, forming ever growing groves. There is one grove in Utah estimated to be 80,000 years old, possibly the oldest living organism on Earth. (see David Sibley, The Sibley Guide to Trees)


This American Larch or Tamarack Larch, which is the Algonquian Native American name for it, is growing in the wetland next to our house. It's a deciduous tree that turns yellow and looses its needles every year. The delicate needles stand in lovely contrast to the evergreen trees behind it.


The sweet nuts of the Shagbark Hickory are edible but hard to get out of the shell. They are very popular with squirrels. The bark  is great for smoking or grilling meat.

The iconic Black Locust is hard to mistake for any other tree, tall,  towering,  gangly, central black trunk with deep furrows and few crooked brittle branches off to the sides topped by an often leafless crown. The wood is extremely hard and resistant to rot, and therefore useful for fence posts, which are frequently found still standing, bordering old abandoned orchards and fields.

The fog was just lifting this morning when I scouted out the cornfield behind the Marina by the West  River.

I also saw a flock of about 20 shorebirds cruising over the cornfield. They turned  out to be migrating Lesser Yellowlegs. One, probably a juvenile, settled on a flooded part of the field near me and was busy picking away in the water:

Hope this beautiful  weather will last!

10/12/09  Correction: The flock of shorebirds turned up again today and they were mostly Killdeer. I am not sure whether the Lesser Yellowlegs was part of a mixed flock or whether it was an isolated individual stirred up by the commotion of the Killdeer and then settled back down near me.

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