Nature in fall

Insects can cause interesting galls on various plant species.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Fall has arrived with the onset of October. Trees are changing colors and it won’t be long until shorts and tank tops are pack away for the season. But cooler weather doesn’t mean you have to retreat indoors! Fall can be a great time to get out and enjoy the last views of many of our wildlife species that seem to vanish during the winter.

For more information on where to find each of these types of critters, check out our website at www.co.cerro-gordo.ia.us.

Insects

Insects are extremely interesting when you start looking at their life history. Many of our Iowa insects will use plants as protection during the egg and larvae phases, creating what a called galls on the plant. The insect lays an egg which is then encapsulated in a gall – a protective barrier. The egg hatches and often, the larvae/pupae stay inside the plant until the next spring, when they emerge as adults. As the leaves fall off your trees at home, check them for ‘bumps,’ which are probably galls. A bit of online research can tell you which type of insect is using your tree!

Reptiles and Amphibians

Reptiles and amphibians will soon be hibernating, which means you only have a few more weeks to spot them before they are gone until spring. Frogs and turtles will hibernate in a pond or wetland and it’s not uncommon for them to cross roads in the fall to try to find just the perfect spot to settle in for the winter – so watch for them as you’re driving! Terrestrial frogs and toads, as well as salamanders and snakes, often settle down in burrows underground to wait out the bitter cold. Some species dig their own burrow while others find an abandoned one to call home over winter. Watch for these critters in the prairie or the woodlands!

Birds

While spring migration brings birds of colorful breeding plumage through our area, fall migration can be a great time to bird watch as well! Some of our birds, like warblers, are harder to tell apart in the fall so be sure to have binoculars and a field guide handy on your adventure. Not sure what birds to be looking for? Stop by Lime Creek Nature Center to pick up a checklist of Cerro Gordo County birds today!

Mammals

Of all the animals in Iowa, mammals might be some of the hardest to spot. Most of our mammals are nocturnal and/or secretive, but they often leave clues behind. Watch for tracks in soft mud, scat on the ground, or fur caught on a fence line. White-tailed deer have been rubbing their antlers on trees to rid them of the velvet that has helped them to grow all summer – check for these rub marks if you want to know if there is a buck in the area!

If you’re out and about hiking, always keep your eyes and ears open – every once in awhile you may come across a deer, fox, or other critter on the trail. Some mammals shift their activity patterns in the fall, so it’s more likely you’ll notice them during the day. Likewise, squirrels and chipmunks have begun stocking up for the winter, so you may notice increased activity in your yard as well.

No matter which animal you set out seeking to find, be sure to dress for the weather (layers are best!), pack any equipment you’ll need (field guide, camera, binoculars), and have fun! We hope to see you at one of our county areas soon!

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