Many friends commented on the number of native trees still bearing a full complement of green leaves at the beginning of this month. When planning the annual South Fork Trails Weekend Celebration over the last two decades, the third weekend in October was always chosen as the prime time for hiking as this was the “peak” of the fall colors. Here on eastern Long Island, that meant timing the weekend events with the peak colors of our most common deciduous trees and shrubs: oaks, hickories, huckleberries and lowbush blueberries.
Not this year. My backyard oaks, mostly white oak, finally gave up their chlorophyll colors this past week, and November 11’s wind stripped most of them off the branches. Meanwhile, a less ubiquitous forest tree, the American beech, seemed to peak last week as well, but this handsome, later changing species was right on schedule.
Nights have been very quiet this month, the calls of the crickets and katydids having ceased after our first frost of the fall. After a month or so lapse, I heard the soft whinnies of the screech owl this month. A Connecticut study found that their home ranges grew larger in November, an adjustment thought to be a reflection of their diminished prey base during this month. The increased vocalizations may be their efforts to establish and secure the new boundaries of their winter territories.
While we’ve had some mild weather this month, the temperature had taken a quick and noticeable plunge in late afternoon as dusk approached. Sensing a long, cold night, a number of birds, mostly sparrows, descended on the construction site that is my house in search of microenvironments in which they could huddle together and conserve energy. With dozens of exposed soffits and rafters providing perfect nooks and crannies, they were not disappointed. While shingling the upper gable, I watched two individuals try to claw their way through an enticing dark hole that proved to be an exposed piece of impenetrable tar paper.
My resident chipmunks apparently secured enough winter food in their underground larder and, despite the pleasant temperatures, checked out for the 2011 season. Perhaps their internal clock that registers decreasing daylight overrode temperature. The same must be true of the fiddler crabs: there was no sign of their sand burrows or feeding pellets at Accabonac Harbor this week.
Returning from a race at Heckscher State Park on Sunday, and doing 55 mph on the portion of Sunrise Highway just west of Connetquot State Park, I noticed a five-point buck abeam in the fast lane. I’m not sure if he was crossing the highway from north to south and had already safely navigated the steady flow of westbound traffic—an amazing feat if it were so—or was aborting the midday crossing from south to north, but he began veering toward me forcing me onto the paved breakdown lane before bumping my left front panel and, without breaking stride, bounding off into the adjacent woods.
This was my second November deer “bump and run” incident, the last being in 2009 on Amagansett’s Town Lane and also involving a rut-crazed buck.