Early October welcomes the mini-season of Cold Dew (Approx. October 8 – October 22). During this time the nights are getting progressively colder and the days are getting shorter. Frost can be expected in the mornings, but it usually disappears with the rising sun. The following haiku by Buson seems fitting for this time of year.
miles of frost – on the lake the moon’s my own. -Buson
The mini-seasons were originally created by the ancient Chinese and then adapted by the Japanese in 1685. (1) When the Japanese adapted the calendar, they added the micro-seasons. The micro-seasons of this season include:
- The Geese Arrive (Oct 8-Oct 12)
- The Chrysanthemum Flowers (Oct 13- Oct 17)
- The Grasshopper Sings (Oct 18 – Oct 22)
The first micro-season,”The Geese Arrive”, highlights the difference in climate between my location in New England and Japan. For us, the geese have begun their migration south. So instead of geese arriving, we have geese leaving. The opposite would be true for those living in more southern regions.
As a way to welcome in the mini-season of Cold Dew, we will look at some seasonal changes including bird molting and fall foliage. We will then read a poem by Emily Brontë.
The Seasonal Changes
Bird Migration and Molting
Just prior to their seasonal migration, birds engage in a process known as molting. Molting is when a bird changes out their damaged feathers for new feathers. Because feathers are similar in construction to human hair or nails, meaning that they are built of the protein keratin and not living tissue, they are unable to repair themselves. Molting is what allows birds to get new feathers for their migration. Molting, however, takes a lot of energy so birds “schedule” this process in between the breeding and migration seasons.
Many birds will take on a completely different appearance after the fall molting. For example, a male Goldfinch sheds its bright yellow feathers and then replaces them with duller olive color feathers.
The landscape is also changing at this time. As the days get shorter and the temperature a little colder, the trees stop making food in preparation for winter. The scientist at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry explains that leaves change color because “the chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.”(2) The are many variables that contribute to the intensity of the color of the leaves including rainfall, the first frost, and overall temperatures.
Right now, in northern Vermont, we are entering the peak/moderate foliage season. You can track the status of the foliage season, and see some great foliage photos, by visiting the Vermont Fall Foliage Reports page from Vermont.com
Finally, as we contemplate the arrival of this new mini-season and recognize all the changes that are happening, lets read Emily Brontë’s (1818-1848) poem “Fall, leaves, fall”.
Fall, leaves, fall by Emily Brontë
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away; Lengthen night and shorten day; Every leaf speaks bliss to me Fluttering from the autumn tree. I shall smile when wreaths of snow Blossom where the rose should grow; I shall sing when night’s decay Ushers in a drearier day.
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