Early Signs of Fall

Posted on September 1st, 2008 by

As students return to campus, one cannot help but think of how fast the summer has gone by. While the trees are still green and lush, and the days are still very warm, autumn is approaching faster than we probably realize.

Monarch butterflies can be seen migrating south already; last week I counted over 200 flying through a quarter-mile stretch of the arboretum. The gardens surrounding the Interpretive Center are currently ablaze with orange. Hummingbirds have become a little easier to find as they begin to fatten up for their journey south (come check out the new hummingbird feeder outside the Interpretive Center office). Cicadas have been buzzing for about a month now; these seemingly invisible insects are a sure signal of the waning summer. And warblers, those tiny gems that pass through briefly in spring and fall, can now be found migrating through the arboretum (I found a Black-and-white Warbler here last week).

And yet, for some species, autumn began long ago. Some shorebird species, such as Least Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs, arrive to their arctic breeding grounds in mid-June, nest for a couple weeks, and then begin their southward migration in early July; it is not uncommon to see these fall migrants as early as July 4.

But let’s enjoy the last couple weeks of summer while they’re here, shall we? The arboretum is nothing short of stunning right now, with daylilies, liatris, coneflower, and goldenrod in full bloom. Other interesting sightings over the past week include sphinx moths (hummingbird look-alikes) and giant swallowtail butterflies.


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