Nature Notebook, September 9, 2021

09/08/2021

How quickly it seems the light has changed, and now a slight chill accompanies the morning fog! The fall season in the Northern Hemisphere begins with the autumnal equinox, marking equal day and night hours, on Sept. 22, just after the full moon of Sept. 20. This full moon is called the harvest moon, as it stretches out the day’s light for agricultural communities to continue work before the shorter winter days. “Autumn” comes from the Latin word autumnus, meaning “fall,” as the season is tied to the dropping of leaves.

With leaves dropping from buckeye and bay trees and plants preparing for the change of seasons, the landscape is becoming more open. Look for piles of sticks along Limantour Road and around White House Pool. Three- to four-foot-high cone-shaped stick piles are from pack rats, or dusky-footed woodrats. These structures, often built near creeks and waterways, are usually concealed in underbrush but become more visible in fall. 

Snowberries—small, singular white berries with little foliage—are appearing, as are clusters of white poison oak berries. These provide important food supplies for birds. Snowberries, related to honeysuckle, are a deciduous shrub, so as their leaves fall, we see the berries more easily.