foreground pond with Canada geese behind them 2 deer stand with red and green trees as back drop

My first opportunity this year to participate in the archery season was this morning. A light frost was blanketing the field which I hadn’t seen for over a week. I was immediately reminded how beautiful it is this time of year. The white-throated sparrows, harbingers of winter, are arriving. And I love listening to juveniles practice their breeding song – a pitiful version of Old-Sam-Peabody-Peabody!

Of course, the real beauty this time of year is the terrestrial rainbow. A chorus of trees loudly proclaiming their magnificence. Species vying for best dressed. Look around. My black cherries are already bare, going for the minimalist look. The hickories are golden, channeling royalty. And the staghorn sumac is bright red, a bold statement for small stature. I could go on and on.

Cardinal in tree with changing leaves of red and yellow

It’s been a stressful year for oaks. Spongy moths denuded them of leaves in early summer combined with a long dry spell in July. Oaks usually are still green, but this year are tending to show some browns, an outward reflection of their trials. I hope the moths do not appear next year, but the egg masses everywhere suggest otherwise.

We all know acorns are a preferred food source this time of year. But a monochrome forest of oak is not just boring, it’s risky. Way riskier than those naked black cherries strutting down the fall runway. Oaks are highly unreliable food producers. That rainbow of diversity (think cherries, beechnuts, etc.) is needed for stability over time so there is a fallback for wildlife when stressful events occur (like spongy moth outbreaks).

The springtime rainbow is much less dramatic because it’s spread out. I know it’s turkey season when the shadbush is in bloom and that it will soon be over when the dogwood blooms. Black walnut always seems to be the last one to the leaf-out party. But after that it’s all just vast sea of verdant green. No rainbow to remind us of all the diversity the forest holds.

So enjoy that rainbow of oaks and maples and cherries and hickories and sumacs. They add color and spice to everyone’s life! 

Duane Diefenbach

P.S. I only hunted about 10 minutes when I “remembered” I had to pick up a friend who was dropping off his car for repair. By the time I got to work, the live report from home was that 5 deer were headed toward my tree stand!

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