Our weather is showing some cool night time temperatures, but frost is still 2-3 weeks away and there is lots of insect activity and still some late bird migration underway. Fall fruits are much in evidence, offering immediate snacks and some long term food supply. One of my favorites is the blue fruit of arrow wood viburnum. They are small enough for many species to eat and we have so many plants that they last into the fall. In contract, the winterberry hollies in our marshes are very bright red and seem to be a fruit that is not eaten so early as the viburnums. Isn't it interesting that such different colors are both so attractive to birds?
Caterpillars are still present in large numbers, many preparing to overwinter as pupae. This rarely seen marsh dagger moth caterpillar was especially interesting since they were present in very large numbers in the open, eating cattails, and their color is quite bright. This would normally indicate that the caterpillars were toxic but I could find no information on this topic. In distinct contrast the caterpillars of snowberry clearwing sphinx moths or hornworms are extremely well camouflaged. They can damage our coral honeysuckles severely, so I move many of them to the exotic Japanese honeysuckles where they do no harm. A few caterpillars fall prey to the very painful assassin or wheel bug which is shown here eating an army worm. You must be careful not to pick up this bug or it may inject you with a painful bite.
Monarchs are still passing through our area and here a beautiful female is finding some nectar on an aster, characteristic of the fall season. The meadowhawk or yellow legged dragonfly is the last dragonfly to emerge in the north, a beautiful "fall color" and a true indicator of the fall season.
Bird migration is quickly passing although we are still enjoying some warblers. This Cape May male was spotted feeding on wild grapes near the Blueridge Music Center. During spring migration the same species is very fond of the flowers of sea grapes in our Florida yard. Nearby we spotted a flock of seven wild turkeys which all appeared to be young males or jakes, since their beards were of intermediate length. Some hawks are migrating through and others will remain during the winter. An immature red-tailed hawk was engaging in some amusing aerial dogfights with three ravens; it is here shown upside down as it buzzes one raven below.
So fall with all of its beauties is here with a vengeance- there is no stopping the seasons and we would not want to. Enjoy the changing parade of nature and savor each moment.
Galax, VA and Englewood, FL