Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Nothing so rare as a day in October
By STACEY COLE | October 21. 2016 7:50PM
— Sandy Cobb
Editor’s note: The following column, requested by the reader listed above, was originally printed in the New Hampshire Union Leader on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009, and is printed in its entirety below.
ALTHOUGH THE wily winds of November are about to blow, October is the subject of another delightful letter from our longtime reader friend, Anne Somero of New Ipswich. Looking back over a great number of years, Anne has contributed several enchanting letters to this column. I am pleased to share her latest letter. Anne Somero wrote: “What is so rare as a day in June,’ said the old poet, for he did not live in New England where we will say, ‘What is so rare as a day in October?’
“An October day begins when Venus disappears and night fades to silvery dawn. When the eastern horizon is edged in pink. When the sun pushes up over Whitemore Hill. The mist hangs over the river where the geese are talking amicably to each other — quiet morning talk, planning a day on the wing.
“The grass is frosty. Smoke curls up, lazy, from the chimneys. I can smell the wood smoke, and the damp, and the old leaves. I see where the deer have been under the apple trees during the night. The apple crop has been amazing this year.
“By mid-morning the sun has warmed things up. The sky is pure, October blue. The trees have come full circle, all bright they are, and showy in colors of fall. The fallen leaves lie in drifts and windrows that crunch and swoosh when I walk through them. If you go out early enough when the morning is still and quiet, you can hear them falling. They fall like raindrops, patter, patter. Falling leaves whispering goodbye to summer on their way down. Try it some morning. Go stand outside in the cold stillness and listen. You’ll be surprised at what you hear.
“Now I can see the little birds’ nests in the hedge rows. Such intricate, fragile little works of art and architecture.
“The tiny yellow leaves on the roadside shrubs shimmer and gleam in the sunlight. They quiver and shake in the least little breeze, a golden October dance.
“The warmth doesn’t stay long, nor the daylight. Dusk comes early, the lights come twinkling on the houses across the valley. The steady thunk, thunk from up at the woodpile ceases. The woodsman is heading home for supper.
“The moon comes up, that bright and brazen October moon, chasing up shadows and brightening up the foliage with mysterious moonshine.
“A Vee of geese fly by the moon, straight and fast, their lonely, lovely calls filling the night. Then, just as quickly, fade into silence. Where do they go? They go just like this October day which has somehow faded into night. They go like October does which somehow has faded into November.
“Yes, what is so rare then, as a day in October?”
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A Portsmouth reader inquired: “The bundle of leaves, etc., in tops of trees that are showing up now — are they squirrels’ nests (gray)? And is it only used in summer? Where do they go in winter?”
Our reader’s assumptions are basically correct. Gray squirrels build the leaf-twig nests that show up when the foliage has left hardwood trees. If a squirrel cannot find a suitable woodpecker hole or a cavity in a standing tree, they will build a leaf nest.
Squirrels seem to prefer these nests in summer, but if a more weather-secure nest cannot be found, these leaf nests are used the year around. Occasionally, one squirrel will build as many as six leaf nests.
If a nest becomes threatened by a predator, squirrels quickly carry their young by mouth to another location, one already prepared. Occasionally, a squirrel will select a large bird house to nest in if the entrance hole can be chewed large enough for passage.
For anyone who would like to build a squirrel house the Bird Watcher’s Digest booklet, “Enjoying Squirrels More (or less!)” recommends it be built “12 inches square by 24 inches tall. The entrance hole, often 3’ square, should be in the uppermost corner of the box nearest the tree trunk. An overhanging, sloped roof will protect occupants from the weather. Boxes should be securely mounted high in a tree.”
Stacey Cole, Nature Talks columnist for more than 50 years, passed away in 2014. If readers have a favorite column written by Stacey that they would like to see reprinted, please drop a note to Jen Lord at firstname.lastname@example.org.