To some, fall might mark the end of summer, but to others it marks a new beginning. For example, many birds born this year are about to undertake their very first migration – the long journey south to where they will spend the winter. While your friendly neighbourhood robin will only fly as far as just over the border, the red-winged blackbird will fly all the way to Mexico. Phew! That’s a long way to go just to avoid cold weather. Our most famous fall migrant is the Canada goose – if you look up in the sky you might see a “V” shaped formation of geese heading south for the winter. The loud honking you hear is the young geese complaining “are we there yet?”
When I think of fall, I like to think about my favourite fruit: apples. What is the first animal that comes to mind that likes apples? Deer? Raccoons? How about coyotes? Not only do coyotes eat other animals, they are omnivores that enjoy fruits and vegetables as well. The coyotes at Terra Cotta Conservation Area are lucky to have many old apple trees that provide them with delicious apples all fall.
Many people celebrate the fall harvest during Thanksgiving. Do you know anyone who eats a Thanksgiving turkey? People have been eating turkeys for a long time, and turkeys have been around even longer. Five million year old turkey fossils have been found in the southern United States. If you are traveling for Thanksgiving this year, keep watch out the car window for wild turkeys hanging around forest edges or in farm fields, looking for tasty nuts and berries. Even though wild turkeys can weigh up to 10kg (22lbs), they sleep way up high in trees.
After Thanksgiving comes the spookiest day of the year: Halloween. Owls, bats and spiders, oh my! All kinds of creatures come out after dark. The forest at Terra Cotta is habitat for many different kinds of owls, including the great horned owl whose favourite food is skunks. Bats don’t mind the dark because they hunt moths and other insects using echolocation, meaning they send out a sound that bounces off of their prey and helps them to locate it. Even though spiders can be creepy-looking, they are great friends to people and eat lots of pest insects like mosquitoes. If you find a spider in your house this fall, let it hang around as a Halloween decoration and it will repay you by catching other bugs.
A great opportunity to share the forest with these creatures of the night while having a blast is this year’s Halloween Haunted Forest at Terra Cotta Conservation Area on October 25-26.
I hope that thinking about all these wonderful things will get you looking forward to fall.