As the daylight begins to sneak away from us and the temperature starts to turn, autumn has settled in. During the fall transitions, the deciduous trees are painted in a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns and begin to blanket the ground. As those leaves fall from the canopies of the trees, our eyes catch glimpses of the animals who will stay at Schlitz Audubon for the winter.
A Transition to Dormancy
You will be witnessing the transition to dormancy in all living organisms, whether you’re at the top of the tower, looking down into the water from our boardwalk, or in the woodlands hearing the rustling of the birds and mammals. You may observe the lily pads starting to turn a rusty red to absorb the shorter light wavelengths that will arrive in winter. The ponds will start to crystalize with ice and the frogs, toads, and turtles will begin their preparation for torpor, a period of lethargy spent in the mud, under the ice.
Traveling further into the autumn season, you will hear the sound of the American Crows filling the morning air, while Black-capped Chickadees stay to forage in the trees. As you hike the trails, Wild Turkeys may join you on fall afternoons and the Red-bellied Woodpeckers might be flitting from tree to tree, keeping your head swiveling. Fall plumage of the American Goldfinch will be a dull, pale yellow as a grayish plumage replaces the bright yellow they sported in the spring and summer. Having an irregular migration pattern, some will create permanent residence due to good food supply while others will take flight mid-fall for a short-distance migration. The male House Finch’s red chest and head has become a pale brown color, leaving only a hint of red under their eyes for the coming Wisconsin winter.
While the sun settles into the horizon, the Barred Owls, while unseen by visitors, will start to become restless in the twilight. The down feathers covering their feet help them maintain their residence at the Center through the winter. Under the cover of the nightfall, coyotes will roam the grounds, leaving tracks from their nightly treks for visitors to view in the daylight.
Activity at Our Bird Feeders
In late October, Dark-eyed Juncos will be spiritedly eating seeds at the bottom of our bird feeders, marking the first sign that winter is coming. As they are eating on the ground, you may catch a flash of red from the Northern Cardinal darting into view. Their bright red plumage pops against the bare branches, making them a staple sight in the colder months. Many animals will gather at the feeders to feast, including the red squirrel, gray squirrel, chipmunks, and the occasional eastern cottontail rabbit.
With daylight dwindling, we welcome you to visit the Center for a hike on the trails. Take in the autumn scenery, observing subtle changes that are taking place in plants and animals.