October brings cool refreshing temperatures and typically the first frost of the fall. With this our attention turns to the trees, as with cooler temperatures and shorter daylight hours reveal hidden leaf colors. The change starts slowly with reds of black gums and sweet gums beginning the show and then picks up pace as the burgundy’s of ashes and reds, oranges and yellows of maples join in the show hitting the peak in color. Now, just as these begin to fade, the oaks are just beginning the final act before strong winds bring an abrupt end to the show.
Forest edges are great places to search for poison ivy vines with their white berries; packed with energy. These are consumed by migrants and local birds alike with a vengeance. Look for chickadees, titmice, cardinals, woodpeckers and migrating yellow-rumped warblers feasting on the fruits that quickly disappear. The marshes are filled with activity as waterfowl migration is well underway. Wood duck numbers increase in the oxbows of North Chagrin Reservation where it is easy to see over one hundred in just one wetland feasting on the abundant seeds and nuts that have fallen into the shallow waters.
October is a busy month for mammals as they are utilizing autumn’s bounty to prepare for the winter ahead. Squirrels and chipmunks scamper through dry leaves locating and cashing seeds and nuts. Ground hogs waddle, as they are fat with a summer worth of feasting to feed and put the finishing touch on their internal food supply. Beaver activity increases around wetlands throughout Cleveland Metroparks as they are busy cutting trees and shrubs to store sticks in an underwater cash for winter food supply.
With each passing day the insect songs heard in meadows are becoming become quieter and quieter. The crickets, grasshoppers and katydids are reaching the end of their life cycle; the first heavy frost will put an end to their songs. However, before they fall silent they have already initiated next year’s generation as eggs have been deposited and will overwinter to begin the cycle again in the spring.
Mast crops provide a bounty for wildlife this month. Sweet white oaks and bitter red oaks acorns begin to fall and are consumed by squirrels, deer, birds and insects providing a good layer of fat before winter. Hickories and black walnuts nuts are stashed underground and in hollow trees to provide food during the cold winter months. Witch hazel now only begins to bloom as last year’s seeds are now dispersed by small “explosion” sending seeds flying up to 10 feet away!