Article by Josh Lane, September 2015
Fall is here! As we move into the new season, it’s time to connect with the changes that cycle through the natural world. The intensity of summer is giving way to the gathering energy of the autumn – a natural time to harvest, be it wild foods like acorns, or to gather the bounty of the backyard garden.
Nature On the Wing
Things are moving as the season sets in… many birds are in the midst of their seasonal migrations. The flyways are filling with great numbers of birds each day. These long-distance travelers are seeking warmer accommodations for this next half of the year.
Here in California, hawk watchers keep a tally each day at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory on Hawk Hill, a favorite spot for raptors just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Almost 600 birds of prey of various kinds were spotted working their way along the coast there in just one day this last week! This is a great time to connect with your local Audubon center and find out about your nearby hot spots for hawk watching. Hawks tend to follow updrafts provided by wind striking against coastal cliffs or inland mountain formations, or thermal air currents created as the sun warms the ground.
And on the Ground…
As you get outside in the coming weeks, whether to spot birds or to gather wild edibles, it’s a great time to brush up on your poison oak & ivy identification skills. Both species are very similar in appearance (poison oak is a west coast native, while poison ivy inhabits the eastern states). As we get deeper into the changing seasons, the appearance of the plants also alter as leaf color changes and leaves eventually drop off the plants.
Here in California, poison oak takes on a shrubby appearance, forming vast stands that cover entire hillsides. Poison ivy has more of a tendency to vine up trees or creep along the ground. Both species produce whitish fruits that provide important calories for a variety of bird species. In this video I show some tips for identifying poison oak (many of which apply to poison ivy as well). Happy fall excursions!
About the Author:
Josh Lane is an avid wildlife tracker and bird language observer. He contributed to the “How to Learn Bird Language” section of the book, What the Robin Knows, and developed the Backyard Bird Language online course. Josh is a nature connection mentor with 8 Shields in Northern California, and has presented bird language trainings at events around North America, including the 2013 National Audubon Conference.