Nature Notes

Fleeting Fall

By Mary Beth Pottratz

Dark clouds and a sailor’s breeze make for moody weather. At 42 degrees, precipitation rotates from light rain to small snowflakes to graupel (those tiny pellets of frozen snow) that sting my face. I sit out a period of chilly rain in the car and am fascinated by fall’s colors swirling through the raindrops on the windshield.

20191013_152425Raindrops on windshieldRaindrops on the windshield

Purple and white asters are still in bloom throughout the arboretum. A half dozen wild turkeys peck at the ground in a clearing.

20191013_145010Patchwork quilt (2)Trees around Wood Duck Pond

Trees around Wood Duck Pond form a patchwork quilt of bright yellow, orange, brown, green, russet and more. A hawk flies low across the pond and disappears behind trees.

A princely maple tree brightens the landscape in shades of burnt oranges, gold and fading green. Our bountiful late summer rains combined with an early cold snap has brought fall colors to a magnificent peak.

20191013_150811Jumble of leavesJumble of leaves

The jumble of leaves on the woodland floor include gold, green, tan, brown, russet, maroon, purple, mustard and clay. A white-breasted nuthatch gives its nasal “aunk” call from behind a branch above me.

Crows squawk and a blue jay calls as I leave the woodland and head towards the prairie. The brisk wind seems to have put other birds into hiding.

20191013_153853Hairy false goldenasterHairy false goldenasters

Hairy false goldenasters and black-eyed Susans are bloom yellow and gold. Goldenrods are tipped with feathery off-white seedheads. Stiff gentian and New England aster still flower in the prairie garden.

20191013_153817Prairie dropseedPrairie dropseed

Prairie dropseed, one of my favorite grasses for its grace and softness, reclines in poufs of lemon yellow. Little bluestem has feathery seeds along its tip, and the blades are muted brick red. Dried seedheads of ryegrass curve above the fray.

20191013_150849Sun through treesSun peeks

As I continue along Three Mile Drive, a magnificent maple in flaming orange draws photographers to it. The sun peeks momentarily through trees, glowing on yellow leaves.

You can check local fall color updates at the Department of Natural Resources’ Fall Color Guide here:

Forecasted for this week are warmer and dryer days than today, with much more sunshine. Better stop out quick – this fall is going by at the blink of an eye!

Mary Beth Pottratz is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer. More information about the Master Naturalist Volunteer program is available at

3 comments on “Fleeting Fall

  1. Elaine Cole

    How many turkeys do you think are on the grounds? We counted 13 on the Three Mile Drive, but there was a flock pecking around the library windows too.

    • That’s a great question, Elaine! We’re not sure how many turkeys are living at the Arb, but we do see them (and hear them!) regularly on the grounds.

      • I’ve been following the turkeys almost daily. I’ve seen 3 hens with chicks. There tends to be a group of about 11 chicks that stay together with the hens. I’ve been finding 2 groups of toms there are usually 5 to 6 in each group.
        Last year, I found them mostly by the barn. This year, it’s hard to predict where to find them.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: