Nature Notes

Season of Motion and Change

By Boak Wiesner

This week’s happenings bring Heraclitus to mind – he of the outlook that “everything is in motion.”

Monarchs are moving. Though some remain with us, most have flown off to the mountains of Mexico. Amazingly, it wasn’t until 1974 that the location of their wintering grounds was found–five years after Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon. The things right under our noses still can mystify.

Birds are moving. I heard the loud “chips” of a flock of yellow-rumped warblers along the paths–they are in constant motion as they eat up the last of summer’s insects. And some white-throated sparrows giving a few half-hearted attempts at their familiar “Oh sweet Canada-Canada-Canada”; well, why bother? Breeding season is a whole winter away! They are on their way south and won’t be back until the middle of May.

Chickadees and goldfinchs are always moving. They stay with us, of course, but they are showing their usual flurry of activity eating the seeds of many plants whose flowering has come and gone.

Chipmunks are in motion. At one point, there were three scurrying around me, their motion made very apparent by the rustle of the dried leaves on the ground.

The leaves are falling, falling, falling; there’s a strong sense of downward motion when you’re in the middle of the forest. Even the nutrients in the leaves are in motion as the bacteria in the forest floor recycle them back into the food chain for use by next year’s plants. Varying amounts of sunlight on leaves that are partly shaded lets them be a range of colors from green to yellow to red, even on the same leaf.

The very air itself has been in a lot of motion this last week as high pressure moving towards low makes it flow in strong gusts all weekend. The wind’s path rotates around counterclockwise due to the Coriolis Effect.

It is the season of motion and change.

Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Master Naturalist volunteer.

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