Signs of fall: Changing leaves, acorns dropping

SOME SIGNIFICANT COLORS are showing up in the higher elevations. Some of the red maples are beginning to show signs of coloration with their bright red and yellows, and the black birch are beginning to turn yellow. You will spot this coloration in the higher elevations on the Catoctins and South Mountain. Coloration is in its very early stages, so don’t worry if you can’t make it out this weekend. The best is yet to come. Abundant acorns

Early signs are that we will have a bumper crop of acorns this year. Abundant acorns have been spotted on the red and black oaks along with the white and chestnut oaks. This will be helpful to wildlife that depend on these seeds for a winter food source since last years crop was bad.

Eastern gray squirrel

Often thought of as a good example of industrious behavior, the Eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is a native species common to Frederick County. Each gray squirrel can store thousands of nuts, seeds and fruits by burying them or hiding them in many different locations. While squirrels have a good memory of their areas, their sense of smell helps them home in on the stored food. Even so, much of their hidden food is not eaten, and the acorns, hickory nuts and other seeds they bury help grow new trees and plants.

Photo from Pamela Morris

Being adaptable and tolerant of humans, gray squirrels have become invasive in areas like California and Great Britain, where they outcompete the native red squirrels. In our area, coloring of gray squirrels can vary from light gray, gray with a reddish tinge, to black. Katydids

The common true katydid (Pterophylla camellifolia) is a relative of grasshoppers and crickets. They are heard more than seen because they stay mainly in the higher branches of trees, especially oaks. Their wings, with veins that enable the katydid to look like a leaf, camouflage the insect. Katydids “sing” to each other by rubbing their forewings. The katydid is laying its eggs now. They will hatch in the spring. Katydids fly little, and if they fall from a tree, they will climb back to higher ground. They provide good food for birds, bats, toads and other animals.

Nature Notes for 9/27/2009