October Forests in Pennsylvania
By Ryan Reed
As if we needed more reasons to love our forests in Pennsylvania, along comes October. Decorated in gold, crimson, orange, and myriad other shades, the forest bursts with color. The diversity of deciduous trees in our forests assures a great show every year, offering a wide palette of colors and a variety of peak times. From the splendor of the northern hardwoods to the later spectacle of the oak-heath community, it seems Penn’s Woods have an unfair advantage when it comes to fall color.
Another reason why I love our forests so much in October is because of the opening of archery season. The statewide bow opener is this Saturday, October 5. The textures, sights, and sounds treated to those of us willing to sit quietly in the woods are indeed gifts from nature. The sweet smell of recently shed leaves, their crunch underfoot, and busy ramblings of squirrels and birds preparing for winter is a show that never gets old to me.
Savvy October forest observers also know it is the time for the great raptor migration. From the early broad-wings to the late eagles, and all the kestrels, red shoulders, and ospreys in between; positioning oneself at a proven “hawk watch” while enjoying autumn’s still-abundant sunshine can be an especially rewarding day afield.
October seems the time that our woods give up the spoils of the growing season, dropping leaves and mast alike, nourishing the animals and plants once more. Fall’s abundance can be found in butternuts, acorns, paw paws, and persimmons; hickory nuts, winged maple samaras, and red dogwood fruits. The synchronicity of the maturation of fall mast with migration of birds and timing of hording and hyperphagia of mammals is no accident. Their ties are inextricable as producers and consumers.
The commonwealth’s forests in October have a little something for everyone. See the joy in a 4-year-old’s eyes finding her “biggest pine cone ever!” or watch the trembling hand of the novice bowhunter as a buck draws near. Breathe in the humic smell of the forest floor; admire the blazing leaves against the evergreen backdrop. Hear the kee-kee run of the wild turkey and the gentle patter of falling leaves. Our forests are a wonderland in October. It’s all there. Get out. Don’t miss it!
About the Author: Ryan Reed is an Environmental Education Specialist in the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry. He possesses degrees in Wildlife and Fisheries Science and Wildlife Technology, while currently pursuing a master’s degree in Environmental Pollution Control. He has also worked for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and taught high school sciences for 11 years. He is especially interested in biodiversity and ecology. A lifelong hunting and fishing enthusiast, Ryan resides in Harrisburg, PA.
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