Friday, September 24, 2010

Is it Autumn Yet?

The most enjoyable part of spending the night at Bernheim Forest is dawn and dark. We sat down by Mac's Lake, and the full moon was so bright we didn't need a flashlight to return to the lodge. When the sun started to rise we went for a pre-breakfast walk, just to enjoy the fresh light and cooler temperatures.
This summer has been dreadfully hot and dry. Two more record high temperatures were set while we were at Bernheim this week. The rainfall is 2 inches below normal for September and another 1.5 inches below normal for August. Have you ever noticed all the yellow flowers that bloom in the fall? Why are they all the same color? Tavia, my wildflower expert, says yellow attracts the butterflies and other pollinators. There are also ultraviolet colors in the flowers that we can't see, but the insects can.
Goldenrod is the state flower of Kentucky, and there are more than 30 species found here. Goldenrood pollen does not make you sneeze though. It's too heavy and sticky to blow in the wind. Ragweed is the primary source of allergies.
Trees are affected by the drought too. Walnut, sycamore, and tulip poplar normally lose their leaves earlier than other trees, but they also turn yellow before falling off. This year, I fear there may not be many colors for the fall festivals. As we walked down the trail, the dry blowing leaves sounded almost like rain as they tumbled to the ground.
When we hike in the country, I start to think about what life was like in the pioneer days, 200 years ago. I'm very much a city girl, I'm afraid, and I have trouble imagining what it would be like to live away from other people. Look at this picture of Harrison Fork, in Nelson County. You can see many small valleys that look like this - the stream is up against the side of the valley, and the rest is broad and available for raising a crop. The pioneers straightened the streams, removing the bends and meanders, to increase their acreage. This particular creek is down to bedrock, which is hard enough to be used as a road. In fact, it looks like wagon wheel tracks in several places. An endeavor like this must have taken a community effort to dig a channel, then move the stream and fill in the old bed. Now Bernheim has several projects to put the meanders back into the streams to improve wildlife habitat.
Nuts and berries are flourishing. This sawtooth oak was a real head scratcher, until we found a nametag on one of the trees.
Butterflies, beetles and bees don't seem too troubled by the dry weather. Dick took a net to practice catching butterflies, and they all seemed aged with drab colors and tears in their wings.
How many insects can you find on this thistle...
...or this wingstem? You won't see the chiggers, but they see you. I'm going to be scratching my ankles for another week at least!

1 comment:

Mary Beth- the daughter said...

Glad you both enjoyed your mini vacation to the Forest. Love the photos as usual. And your Eastern Pond Hawk is a big hit as a 20x30 poster at work. Thank you for the image and the rights to use it.