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Kenneth Kieser: October is a beautiful, colorful, active month

The Examiner
Take time to enjoy the beautiful fall colors.

I have always considered October to be a transition month when cooler weather brings relief from summer. Many drastic changes take place this month, here’s why:

Cooler weather: Have you ever noticed that fall tends to feel warmer than spring? This is because the spring weather is warming the ground and fall temperatures are cooling the ground.

Cooler fall temperatures don’t occur by accident. The days grow shorter and the earth’s axis tilts, creating cooler temperatures by the sun’s angle on the earth, dispelling the old theory that the earth moves farther from the sun during autumn, not the case.

Fall colors: Leaves are interesting in the fall. After a summer’s worth of creating energy, the photosynthesis process stops. Photosynthesis is the process of plants creating energy. Chlorophyll gives leaves their green color, and helps photosynthesis occur along with sunlight.

When days grow shorter, the rate of photosynthesis decreases and the chlorophyll goes away. Longer nights in early fall allow cells near the juncture of the leaf and stem to divide rapidly but not expand. This action of the cells forms the abscission layer. The abscission layer blocks transportation of materials from the leaf to the branch and from the roots to leaves and why most professionals prune tree limbs after this process has occurred.  

What remains are colors that were always present, yellows or oranges, but were covered by chlorophyll. Cool nights make glucose trapped in leaves to turn reddish, like in sugar maples. This turns woodlots into displays of spectacular beauty.

Sumac and poison ivy vines turn bright red, adding to the beautiful ground cover, although some poison ivy vines run up the center of trees like a beautiful decoration. Native prairie grasses turn reddish-purple, creating more beautiful colors. There is not enough space in the newspaper to list all the changing plants in fall, but the color is there for you to enjoy.

How fish react to fall: Fish behavior is responsive to water temperature because they are cold-blooded. The best places to fish as fall progresses may be shallow waters along south facing shorelines where they warm the fastest, a great walleye tip.

Air temperatures change lake temperatures, especially in surface layers that are warm during the day and cool at night. This triggers fish to gorge for winter. The water that is too cold for you to swim in feels great to the fish, increasing their energy levels.

Migrating butterflies: There are few things more beautiful than a butterfly migration. I have stumbled into this amazing scene with a few hundred floating around. I once sat and watched as they sat, then lifted up and sat back down, apparently content with their resting area before continuing their migration south.

Monarchs are the main migrating group. Missouri Department of Conservation sources claim that more than 200 million monarchs, each weighing on 1/50 of an ounce, fly some 4,000 miles to and from selected wintering grounds in the mountains of central Mexico. The migration runs through early November, depending on the arrival of cold weather.

Migrating birds: By now you might have noticed migrating ducks and geese on lakes, ponds and rivers. During October the fall migration is going strong if temperatures up north become cold enough to push the fowl this direction. Migrating birds fly to better weather then settle in to feed and stay if there is no reason to push farther south. Waterfowl hunters pray for horrible weather up north.

Pelicans and swans drop in first. You may be treated to viewing some endangered trumpeter swans, at least four landed on the lake by my home last fall. Trumpeter swans are much larger than tundra swans.

Tundra swans whistle giving them the name whistling swans, and trumpeter swans trumpet. Both have black bills with a slight orange streak around the mouth on trumpeters and yellow on tundras, but you’d better have a good pair of binoculars or a strong spotting scope to find this difference.

Deer: Bucks go crazy in the fall when does are in season. They start sparring with their antlers to establish dominance. The most dominant buck breeds the does. During this period rutting bucks are dangerous to humans, avoiding them is a necessity. They lose their heads and attack almost anything.

Deer can mean danger to drivers. Bucks lose their caution and start chasing does. Most deer struck by a driver seem to appear with little warning of their presence. Most deer/automobile accidents occur between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.

When a collision with a deer is imminent, brake and hold the wheel straight.  Too often, drivers swerve trying to avoid the animal, and drive off the road or into the path of another car.  These accidents are often more serious than hitting the deer.

Fall is a beautiful time just before winter. Enjoy the beauty and stay safe.

– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail.com.

Kenneth L. Kieser