Summing Up The Season, Rare Gentian, Witch Hazel, Snow Goose

Now that’s it’s January, it may be time to sum up the fall season. The summer was very wet, and the first part of fall continued wet. But for six weeks or so of October and November, we had the most incredible run of beautiful fall weather that I can recall, and I’ve been here thirty years. Temperatures were moderate, and day after day was just wonderful – sunrises, afternoons on the porch, and sunsets. The leaf color was the biggest surprise. I thought it was over several times, and then another color phase came. I was sure they were done after the yellows of the hickories and maples, and then the oaks turned red. There’s was still some color in the woods in December, which is pretty amazing. I gather they had a late fall up north as well, as I watched a race in Wisconsin sometime in November, and the trees were in beautiful color and nearly full leaf.

In terms of wildlife, the mast production – that’s wildlife biology talk for acorns – was good this year, and for some reason, we’ve seen a lot more bucks among the yard deer than usual, some with pretty impressive antlers. I was a bit disappointed by what we saw of the bird migration, but there may still be a little of it to come. On December 22nd, we followed up a tip and found two Common Loons at the Morganton Point boat ramp, followed by a beautiful Meadowlark in mating plumage on Davenport Farm Road. So that was a highlight, as we usually don’t see the loons, and the meadowlarks seem to be declining.

There was that weird “tropical storm.” I slept through it, but I wish I’d been awake to see it. I don’t recall a storm like that here. It was like you sprayed a mixture of pine needles, mud, and shit on my truck. The tops broke out of two of our beautiful chestnut oaks, which required some expensive emergency tree work, as they were hanging over the parking lot. But the real kicker was that it came up the rather deep gully behind the house and knocked four big pine trees down. Not just here, but commonly in the low places. Why there instead of up on top?

I believe we saw an Appalachian Gentian in October, a somewhat rare wildflower, on one of our rambles in the Rich Mountain area. I believe it’s the first gentian I’ve seen in Georgia. Here’s a phone shot. If anyone who knows these things better than I do sees that I’m wrong, please let me know.

Speaking of plants, we planted two witch hazel trees that we got from Native Forest Nursery over in Chatsworth. Here’s a shot taken yesterday. Thoreau waxes poetic about the fall bloom in his journals, so I was interested to see what it looks like in person.

Another mild thrill was that we followed a tip on the GABO emails and located a Snow Goose that had been seen on January 4 across from Horseshoe Bend Park. I’ve never seen one in Georgia. I’m not an expert, but this one looks immature to me. Or perhaps it’s partly in the molt. This was a phone shot taken from the road, a bit downstream from the rail trestle. It might need to be enlarged in your browser. The bird was hanging out with a small group of Canada geese.

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