Along the Air Line... 2002 - September, Part 1
The Air Line Trail in Eastern Connecticut - Stan Malcolm Photos

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While temperatures in the low 90s made early September seem like summer, the plants along the trail were not fooled. The Red Maples (Acer rubrum) were the first plants to show autumn colors.

Some Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans) has also changed - to maroon as pictured, or to bright yellow. Toxicity drops off some in the fall as the urticating oils begin to dissipate, but it's still not a good idea to come into contact with it.

These Mockernut Hickory (Carya tomentosa) leaves have been "skeletonized" - that is, insects (probably beetle larvae) have eaten all the leaf tissue between the veins.

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) berries have turned brilliant red. Later, after the leaves have fallen, the berries will persist as one of the last bright
spots of fall.

Another sure sign of autumn, Black and Yellow Garden Spiders (Argiope aurantia) have appeared in their large orb-shaped webs.

Another spider sits on a petal of Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus).

Brown-bodied Paper wasps (Polistes sp.) are abundant on Goldenrod (Solidago sp.). Here's a trick to amaze your friends: Male Paper Wasps (below) have a yellow face and curled antennae tips - and lack the means to sting. Female Paper Wasps (second picture, below) have a brown face and straight antennae - and, as with all wasps, use their ovipositors to deliver a painful sting. You can pick up male wasps between your fingers with impunity. The wasps will even make stinging motions with their abdomens, but they can't hurt you. Impresses the heck out of viewers though. (Please explain the trick to others if you try this - don't leave them thinking they can pick up any ol' wasp. Also, don't try this with Yellow Jackets or Hornets - just Paper Wasps.)

Imagine, September 9th and I saw my first Monarch (Danaus plexippus). Usually, by this time of year I would have seen hundreds - and raised a dozen or more caterpillars to share in Marlborough's elementary school. I have seen no caterpillars this year.

This is an Arctiid Moth caterpillar, Lophocampa caryae, with the common name of Hickory Tussock Moth (though it is not in the tussock moth family).
Pretty spiffy looking.

I found this Downy Woodpecker (Dendrocopus pubescens) hammering away on some pretty slender stems.

On September 7th we had significant rain, resulting in a thick fog on the morning of the 8th.

The rain resulted in a good crop of fungi. This Pore Fungus was a good 8" across with a cap that could have served as a birdbath. I haven't been able to identify it.

Asters (Aster sp.).

Closed or Bottle Gentian (Gentiana andrewsii), one of the last flowers to bloom in summer. The blooms will persist long into the fall, gradually browning but retaining a hint of purple.

September 11th, 2001: I heard the first, tentative news on WNPR as I got into my car after my walk. But September 12th on the trail was the most significant for me: no contrails in the sky; and disquiet at the sound of a distant siren - wondering what might be coming next.

Contrails this year are a sign of hope: in some small way the aggregate
heroic acts of passengers and crews carrying on.