Exploring September in The Last Green Valley
“In summer we lay up a stock of experiences for winter, as the squirrel of nuts, – something for conversation in winter evenings. I love to think then of the more distant walks I took in summer.” Henry David Thoreau
Welcome to the last month of summer. Fall officially begins with the Autumnal Equinox on September 22nd just shy of three weeks from today. But tomorrow is Labor Day and for many our national holiday represents the end of the summer season. For me summer ends with the sight of long yellow school buses. Morning and afternoon they carry precious cargo, the very hopes and dreams of a better future, safely to and from school. The sights, sounds and experiences of September are all around us. Here is a short list of what I’ll be looking for this month.
Today, Sunday, September 4th will find me at the Woodstock Fair. I have attended for many years and along with other TLGV rangers, staff and volunteers we’ll be located in the TLGV information booth in the Education in Agriculture Exhibit Building. From Friday morning to Monday night, friendly people staffing the many exhibits and booths bring a warm feeling of camaraderie and shared community. After all these years, despite the long days and familiarity of it all, I never tire of meeting and talking with local folks and visitors from afar. Perhaps I’ll see you there too.
Next Saturday, September 10 is the full Harvest Moon, right on cue for me to be wrapping up the harvest from my own vegetable garden. I’ll dig the last of the potatoes and pull the winter butternut squash from withering vines. The taste of fresh winter squash is a precursor to the fall season ahead. Luckily, I’ll be able to rely on local farmer’s markets and farm stands for a supply of fresh veggies well into the fall.
Despite this summer’s severe drought, the crops in my vegetable garden did very well. It helps that we had a good spring for early vigorous growth, along with rich compost, moisture-retaining fabric and judicious watering as needed. Thankfully, we also had help from our niece. She shares in the bounty of the season and a deep satisfaction of eating (and sharing) food grown with your own hands.
As we gather in the harvest, so too does nature gather various seeds from our mature trees. Single-winged helicopter maple seeds descend to waiting chipmunks for storage in their winter larder in tunnels below the frost line.
Squirrels will be busy gathering and burying acorns for winter sustenance. From what I can tell they’ll have very little luck on our land this year as I see few acorns ripening on the oaks. Earlier this summer I discovered several red and white oak seedlings in our back pasture. Our neighborhood gray squirrels had buried acorns last fall and must have missed them during their winter searches. The acorns sprouted and emerged this spring — a visible reminder of the heavy oak mast of last autumn. I’ll mark the location of the most vigorous seedlings in hopes these future precious oaks can be transplanted elsewhere on the property or remain where the squirrel first left them as future shade trees for the back pasture.
Blue jays gather acorns as well and have developed a special talent for only selecting the viable seeds for planting. With their beaks they pick up acorns and shake them to check for weight and rattles. If the seed inside is whole, making it nutritious as well as viable for germination, they’ll store it in their crop and select another for inspection. When the crop and mouth are full, with a last acorn in their beak, they fly off to deposit them in secret.
If an acorn is light, or rattles, it likely was the natal home of an acorn weevil. A female weevil deposits an egg as the nut is maturing, and after hatching the larva dines on the nutritious seed inside. When it pupates and becomes and adult, it chews a tiny exit hole. The light weight and rattle identify these empty shells to wary birds. I wonder if they look for the tiny hole as well.
This month brings another gathering, that of several bird species that only a few months ago were fierce competitors for territory, nesting sites, mates and food for hungry hatchlings. With rearing over, the adults and fledglings join together to feed and fatten up for long flights to warmer climes.
Last year in September a large flock of grackles mixed in with several starlings decided to visit us. I could hear their noisy chatter in the trees down the road and sure enough they soon took flight and headed our way. At first it was only one or two vanguard birds, soon followed by a black cloud of hungry invaders. As if descending off the screen of an Alfred Hitchcock film, they filled the trees in our backyard and blanketed the ground. Despite their ominous ill intent, they were no threat to me, but were mostly in pursuit of ants and other ground dwelling insects. To my dismay, they found the bird feeders and the Viking pillage was on. They returned more than once last fall. This year I am waiting, ready to take in the seed and suet at first sighting.
This month barn and tree swallows can be found lining up along phone and electric lines waiting for the signal to go. Northern flickers will arrive in traveling groups, and like grackles and starlings, will prod the ground for ants and insects, though thankfully without all the noise, fuss and bother.
Other insect eaters like wood and hermit thrush will be departing for warmer climates where an abundance of insects and fruits await them. In a feat of natural wonder, the diminutive ruby throat hummingbird will zoom on wings that beat up to 53 times a second all the way to Central America.
I am confident there will be many other adventures and wonders to experience this month. I hope you’ll make the time to get out and see what is going on right outside your doorway, in your neighborhood and in your community. We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley. I hope you’ll join me and so many others and together let us enjoy it, care for it and pass it on.
The quote at the start of this column was sourced from The Journal, 1837-1861, by Henry David Thoreau, edited by Damion Searls.
Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org of 860-774-3300.
Exploring The Last Green Valley, Sunday, September 4, 2022
The Norwich Bulletin is granted first serial rights and associated electronic rights to publish the following article. The Last Green Valley, Inc. retains all other rights to the work.
Sign up for our newsletter
"*" indicates required fields