Autumn Natural Events
We hope this calendar encourages you to come up often and explore the trails! Dates are approximate; a hurricane or early frost may shift the schedule! Collecting animals (including insects) and picking/digging out plants are not permitted.
Last Three Weeks of September
Watch for Broad-winged Hawks in open swirling groups called “kettles” anywhere there’s an open view of the sky. Look up often, especially when winds are from the NW! Several nearby hawk watches are often staffed with volunteer counters. The closest is Stateline Lookout right off the Palisades Interstate Parkway in Alpine. Others are at Hook Mountain in Rockland Lake S. P. (NY), and Montclair Hawk Watch. Other official HMANA [Hawk Migration Assoc. of N. America] sites are at Fire Island, Chimney Rock, and world-famous Hawk Mountain (PA) and Cape May (for directions and more info visit www.njaudubon.org).
Northwest winds will also favor Warbler sightings during the peak of the southbound migration. Check TNC often! You can still spot a Hummingbird at jewel weed, impatiens, and other flowers. Monarch Butterflies and several Dragonfly→ species head south for the season as well. The ones who succeed begin the next generation in the spring. Look for white blooms of Turtlehead on the DeFilippi trail, and for red Cardinal Flower near the old dam on the Little- Chism Trail. Joe-Pye-weeds (lavender), New York Ironweed (purple), and White Snakeroot are also still flowering. At dusk over Pfister’s Pond, watch for the last of the Little Brown and Big Brown Bats as they feast on 500 to 1,000 insects per hourundefinedeach bat! They will be heading to caves for the winter as the insects disappear for the season.
Eastern Box Turtles seek their hibernaculaundefined a burrow or deep leaf mould that will keep them safe from the upcoming freezing weather. Bullfrogs and Painted Turtles should still be active in Pfister’s Pond. Keep your windows open at night and enjoy the serenade of Katydids and many Crickets. It is possible to hear up to seven species in a few minutes. White Wood-Asters and Gray Goldenrod will be flowering on every trail.
If we get some good rains, look for (but please don’t disturb) many fungi: Chicken-of-the-woods, Bearded Tooth Hen-of-the-woods, and Oyster Mushrooms, Showy Flamecap, Giant Puffballs and various Russulas.
Late September or early October is the time to be by Pfister’s Pond about a half-hour before dusk. Sit quietly and you may witness Herons, Kingfishers, and up to several hundred waterfowl (mostly Wood Ducks, Mallards, and Canada Geese with perhaps a few Black Ducks, Greenwinged Teal or a Pied-billed Grebe) as they fly in to roost. The unexpected may appear as wellundefineda roosting Osprey, a Bittern, Falcon, Owl, Bat, or Muskrat. The same phenomenon occurs at the Celery Farm in Allendale.
Click here to see when the full moon is in September. Mercury, Venus and Saturn are “morning stars” this month, while Jupiter and Mars are hidden behind the sun. Click here to see when the Autumnal Equinox is.
First Two Weeks of OctoberJourney to Stateline Lookout and see several migrating and resident birds of Prey throughout the day. Hawks such as Red Tailed, Red Shoulder, Sharp shinned, Coopers, and Broad wings can be seen as well as Turkey Vultures, Black Vultures, Peregrine Falcons, Osprey, and Juvenile Bald Eagles. Watching for hawks applies even more all through October! The greatest diversity occurs mid-month, especially the first day or two after each cold front. In addition to sites noted earlier, try Wildcat Ridge in Morris County. Now is the time for late warblers such as Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, and Common Yellowthroat. Thrushes, vireos, kinglets and sparrows should abound. Walk slowly or sit quietly by the bridge on the Red Trail, where migrants stop to drink or bathe.
Enjoy the peak of fall colors! Artists know that the edges of Pfister’s Pond simply glow in the morning or late afternoon light! Much of the orange and yellow along Clinton Avenue and Rt. 9W is Poison Ivy. The Virginia Creeper is just as beautiful, but more ‘friendly’.
Last Two Weeks of OctoberListen for the “ chimp - chimp ” call of Winter Wrens as they scurry mouse like along the boardwalk or low bushes by the trailside's. This is a good time to look for migrant Yellow- bellied Sapsuckers and Brown Creepers.
Squirrels and chipmunks will be caching seeds for winter. Watch a Gray Squirrel bury an acornundefinedthen try to find it after s/he’s done. You’ll gain an appreciation of their skill for hiding (and re-locating) their treasure.
First Two Weeks of NovemberThe inconspicuous, stringy yellow blossoms of Witch-Hazel may appear in October, but they are usually seen after the leaves fall, from now through early December.
From now through December, listen from dusk through dawn for Great Horned Owls,→ as they stake out their territories. This is the best time to see a Golden Eagle at major hawk watches (very rare on the Palisades).
Be alert for irregular bird species such as Red-breasted Nuthatch, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, and Evening Grosbeak. Check out the TNC feeders, birch trees, and forest edges.
Last Two Weeks of NovemberWater birds stay locally as long as the pond is ice-free. The “dusk duck show” can last through the third week of November and beyond.
First Two Weeks of DecemberBird diversity is low now, but occasionally ←Mallard ducks can be spotted roosting on Pfister’s Pond even during the Christmas Bird Count (Dec. 15). Look for tracks in the snow.