November 2019

A phenology year - November nuance

Marla Mertz, Marion County Conservation

What we have seen this past month

The cold, grey days have finally appeared. The weather has had ups and downs, but the fall leaves and crispness of the north winds always gives way to finalize some of nature’s activities.

We experienced the Hunter’s Moon on October 13. This bright moon lit up October skies and the animals began moving about after harvest began. Check out the full moon calendar!

Many birds are still migrating from the North Country pushing through Iowa. Sightings of the ruby-throated hummingbirds continued through the latter part of October. Warblers passing through (yellow-rumped warblers, orange crowned warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets, eastern towhee, white-throated sparrows) and robins have been heavily feeding on ivy, dogwood, honeysuckle, and other berry producing shrubs. The slate-colored juncos (snowbirds) appeared in Marion County approximately October 16. Red-tailed hawks have been moving in from their northern breeding territories. Numerous species of gulls have been showing up around the Lake Red Rock area. Turkey vultures have headed on their long distance journeys and the northern bald eagles are moving into the area where open water and food will be abundant for them.

A few of the autumn dragonflies continued to appear on warmer days. Their migration runs late in the season. The autumn and variegated meadowhawks are some of the last of the dragonflies to move southward. They are absolutely stunning in their coloration and blend in well with their surroundings.

It seemed that there were more praying mantis located this month than in the past. We have two species in Iowa, the small Carolina mantis and the, much larger, Chinese mantis. On occasion, you run into the unusual looking eggcase, called an ‘ootheca’. It is an odd, frothy type of egg case that can hold 30 to 300 young. Orb weaver spiders have completed their insect services for the season and have left behind their egg sacs within plants and isolated areas to get through winter.

The egg case of the praying mantis has a funny name - ootheca.

Many butterflies were still being spotted in October including the comma, red admiral, cabbage white, an occasional buckeye, and checkered skipper. Check the butterfly forecast for central Iowa.

The fawns’ spots have faded and the does and young have been out and about lately. The fur color is changing and is very thick. Did you know that deer hair is hollow? The bucks have been showing themselves more. Most of the bucks within our areas have moved from their early season areas to their fall ranges. Pre rut started mid-October in Marion County. Although, there will be more activity in the beginning of November, the excitement of the rut season has started.

Have you ever seen a groundhog up close and personal? It is always very difficult to see them for any length of time, let alone get a photograph. Groundhogs are also called woodchucks and whistle pigs. They belong to a group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Though we usually see them on the ground, they can climb trees. During the summer and early fall, they eat as often, and as much as they can to build up nice fat reserves to get them through the winter deep down in a burrow. So, what do groundhogs eat? Plants, fruits, and berries. So...answer me this. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck?

National Bat Appreciation month was October 24-31. It is a time to celebrate the role bats play in nature. Are you familiar with the kinds of bats that live around you and their benefits? They are AWESOME!

Fall leaves were a little muted in color this fall in Iowa as compared to last year. Many of the leaves began to drop prematurely. Peak color in the Marion County area occurred the third week in October. The woodland floor is filled with colored leaves, several types of mushrooms, acorns, and nuts. The large puffballs appear to be gigantic moons with large craters left by land snails and slugs. The witches butter stands out on the old wood after a cool rain. So many colors, shapes, and sizes. It’s a great time to rediscover the woodlands in the fall. The first snowfall arrived on the 29th of October.

A Closer Look

As the cold begins to set in and the summer birds have moved to their wintering habitats, now is a good time to provide extra help (food) to assist wintering birds conserve a little energy.

Feeding birds is a great family activity that can be enjoyed no matter your age or ability, and, no matter the season. Most birds must change their feeding habits in the winter as most of the insect proteins are no longer an option. High protein meals are a must for all birds to get through the cold, bitter nights. If you feel pressed for time, or really don’t want to look into bird feeding more in-depth, oil sunflower seeds are the best all around winter food for birds.

Bird feeding can be as elaborate or as simple as you want. Attracting them is not so difficult if you provide them the same basic needs as people or any other living organism. We all need food, water, and shelter. Plantings, trees, shrubs, and places they can fly to easily are very important to escape predators or wait for the opportunity to feed, access to open water is highly recommended. Many find that feeding and watching birds brings appreciation, a connection to nature, can be a great social activity, or, it may just warm your soul.

Winter is a great time to spend with your family and children in learning about all things “birds.” What better way to go through a cold winter’s day and see the magic outside of your window. This could all lead to learning about birds, identification of birds, journaling, citizen science and much, much more!

What we are expecting to see in November

  • October 31 into November is peak waterfowl migration

  • November 7 is peak deer rut

  • November 12 is the Full Moon or Beaver Moon

  • Higher numbers of migrating and wintering bald eagles

  • Resident bald eagles will be carrying sticks and repairing nests within their territory.

  • The Leonid meteor shower is expected to peak between midnight and dawn on Monday, November 18

  • Venus and Jupiter meet up for a conjunction on November 24, 2019

Phenology happenings in Marion County, Iowa

As we notice the things in nature that are changing, we'll be adding to this calendar.

Each week a new photo of the woodland creek and the wolf tree will be added to each album! Both of these locations are within Cordova Park. This park is managed by Marion County Conservation.