Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Fall Frenzy!

With harvest season winding down to an end farmers are busy getting fields ready for next year’s planting.

Yard owners are doing final fall clean ups and more to ready their yards for winter time.

Others are busy getting their homes and more ready for the snow to fly.

Mean while all around us nature has been preparing for winter too.

As fall progresses into winter the natural world around us slowly changes, though many do not notice the change as they busily go though their own daily lives.

I notice and I marvel at how nature gets ready for winter.

Many birds spent the fall weeks eating and gaining weight so they could migrate south for the winter. Song birds like Robins, Orioles, Blue Birds and more are now down where it is warmer and they have food to eat all winter long. Some people even go south for winter time too. Other song bird come to Iowa for winter like Junco’s and more they do not mind our milder winter for they live farther North where winter is often colder and longer.

Other birds that say here have gained lots of downy warm feathers and some weight as they prepare to eat a lot and shiver though the day, then sleep a special torpor type sleep at night so they can survive winter. Many people will help our feather friends by placing bird feeders out and open water for them to drink making it a little easier for them to survive winter. Though nature has lots of food for them to eat in the wild it is always helpful to lend a hand to a wild neighbor. It is also fun to watch the different birds that visits bird feeders placed them.

If you look closely you will notice the insects and spiders are gone outside. Most have died leaving behind eggs that will hatch in the spring or some hatch in the fall and will survive as babies all winter long. Some will winter over as nymphs (baby insects) under ground or in the water. Some will winter over as cocoons that will emerge as adults in the spring. One insect has migrated south; the Monarch Butterfly is the only migrating insect in the U.S.A. It is amazing to think they fly all the way to Mexico to rainforest areas to survive winter.

Other animals are missing too, like snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs, toads, and salamanders. They have all gone into a deep sleep for winter call Hibernation. In this state they will hardly breathe their heart hardly beats and they do not move. They slowly live off the weight they gained all summer and into fall. They will emerge in spring thinner and hungry when spring warm temperatures wake them up from their deep underground or even underwater / underground sleeping place.

Some mammals are missing too like the Bat they have migrated to caves in Southern Iowa and are now Hibernating. Groundhogs / Woodchuck’s are also deep into a hibernating state to survive winter.

Other mammals say active all winter long with the exception of extreme cold days or nights then they take a special winter nap. They are called winter sleepers for they grow fat, furry and stay active though most of the winter time. Raccoons, Opossums, Coyote, Fox, Skunk, White-trail Deer and more sleep a special winter sleep on nights that are “nasty” but are very actively out looking for food on nice winter nights. Have you ever seen tracks and then a whole where it looked like an animal “pounced” on something? That is exactly what they did. Mice, voles and more are active below the snow and animals who hunt them pounce or land on them, catching them even though the snow. Birds of pray are active all winter too like owls, hawks and more. They will eat dead animals but they also hunt catching their food that runs around under the snow. Diving down out of the air and grabbing them from under the snow. Birds of prey have excellent sight and hearing especially Owls who can hear a mouse scratch a half a mile away.

Beavers and squirrels are a lot alike in that they both harvest and store food for winter time meals. Beavers store their food in a deep whole dug in the mud in the bottom of their pond. They swim under the ice from their lodge that has a whole into the water to gather from the pile of stored food to feed their hungry beaver family.

The squirrel spent the fall gathering and bearing nuts or even storing them in hollow tree branches or trunks so they would have food to eat though the winter too.

Many other animals store food for winter, I know my family and I do. We have a nice garden and we can, freeze, dry and more many of the foods we harvest so we can enjoy eating them though the winter months.

Others will do harvesting of a different kind as they go out and hunt. Hunting has been a long time way and tradition of harvesting food to feed one’s family for the long winter months to come. I wish everyone who hunts a safe, successful and bountiful hunt.

I hope this gives you a little more knowledge about the Fall Frenzy that is now wrapping up and I hope you enjoy the winter wonderland that approaches.

If you get a chance get out yet this fall go and explore nature, notice the changes that are and have happed around you as nature prepared for winter.

Have a Great Fall Everyone!