Seasonal Sightings, Wisconsin Nature

Discover the Changing Fall Season

Fall is an exciting time of seasonal changes at Schlitz Audu­bon! While October, November, and December may all be­long to fall, each month contains multitudes of seasons within to surprise and delight your senses!

A walk along the Gateway Trail’s prairie boardwalk in ear­ly October showcases golden hues of prairie grasses and rainbow shades of big bluestem. Find a grey headed cone flower along the trail and rub your fingers gently around the seed head. Lift your fingers to your nose and breathe in the citrus-mint scent, then listen for the breeze moving through the drying grasses and prairie flower stems. These plants that provided habitat for insects, birds, amphibians, and reptiles during the summer will stand through the cold months ahead, providing shelter for overwintering birds and small mammals.

Peak Fall Leaf Colors

Mid-October is typically the peak of fall leaf color in South­east Wisconsin, and there is no better view than from the top of our sixty-foot Observation Tower. Take in the view of maple yellow, rich oak brown, and conifer green set against the infinite shades of Lake Michigan blue. In the nearby Maple Grove, every hour is the golden hour! As the yellow maple leaves crunch beneath you, breathe in the earthy-sweet smell. These leaves, now on their way to becoming nourishing soil, spent the summer providing food, shelter, and shade for both wildlife and people.

Fall colors are not only found in the treetops! In the weeks after a soaking rain, a hike around the Woodland Loop reveals a variety of mushrooms. Caste your eyes towards fallen logs and the bases of dead trees and you are sure to dis­cover turkey tail, a common bracket (shelf-like) fungus famous for its medley of colors. A beautiful example of a symbiotic relationship, this fungus gains nutrients from the dead or dying tree it calls home. As a primary decom­poser, it breaks down the cellulose in rotting wood, cre­ating healthy soil and space for new trees to grow.

A Look at Late Autumn Trees

November brings a chance to enjoy sunset at the Cen­ter. If you head up the Observation Tower near dusk, you may glimpse large, silent shapes in the trees. At first, they may appear motionless, but if you catch one mov­ing you have just discovered an Eastern Wild Turkey at roost! To avoid nocturnal predators, turkeys roost in trees from dusk to dawn throughout the year, preferring conifers during colder temperatures.

Early December days unveil the hidden details over­looked in flashier seasons. A stroll on the Central Wet­lands Loop between Dragonfly Trail and Birch Point Overlook is an ideal place to take in the silhouettes of trees. Gaze up and enjoy their intricate branching patterns. As you continue your hike, search for eastern grey squirrel dreys made up of leaves and loosely woven twigs. While only the leafy outside is evident, the inside is lined with grasses, mosses, and shredded bark. December is their grand reveal!

From the lush hues of October to the subtle landscape of early December, autumn contains many seasons. Come visit to experience yours!