This Fall Stands For…

Fantastic lunar and solar eclipses

Autumn colors beginning to show

Leaves beginning to drop

Lots of birds migrating south for the winter

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Lunar Eclipse

We will start from the top. Did you know that in October we will get to experience a total lunar eclipse AND a partial solar eclipse?! That’s right, two in one month. If the weather is just right, those of us in Pinellas County can see the total lunar eclipse around 6:55am (give or take two minutes) on Wednesday, October 8th. This is when the Moon passes directly behind the Earth and the Earth’s shadow creates a reddish hue on the moon. Then, on Oct. 23rd you can see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers parts of the sun starting at 6:19pm. Unfortunately for us, the sun will be getting close the horizon at the peak of the solar eclipse, but there is still a chance to see some of it!

 

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Fall colors of a Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Fall is also known for the beautiful changes in leaf color, but us Floridians’ know that if we want to see true fall colors, we need to head north. Many trees here will lose their leaves, but only a few (like the Red Maple,  Sweetgum and Bald Cypress leaves) will change colors before they fall. So what factors influence leaf color? Leaf pigments, the length of nights, and weather. I’ll try not to get too scientific here, but basically, leaves can contain three different types of pigments, one of which is chlorophyll; as the growing season ends (after the autumnal equinox) and nights become longer, chlorophyll production slows down and eventually stops, revealing the other color pigments in the leaf (yellows,oranges and browns). Furthermore, as the growth of the tree slows, the veins which carry liquid throughout the tree and into the leaves close off and this is what causes the leaves to fall.

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Male Hooded Warbler

Fall also mean bird migration! If you are into bird watching, this exciting time is called the fall migration. I have already seen a hooded warbler, a black-throated blue warbler (a first), and a pair of hermit thrushes in the past week! If you are not a bird watcher and refer to us more as “bird nerds”, I would encourage you and challenge you to give it a try. I admit I am still very much a beginner, but it makes any walk outside an exciting one because you never know what you are going to see and there is so much to learn! In Florida, October brings ducks, grosbeaks, warblers, tanagers, orioles, and thrushes south for the winter. So get going or get started on your bird watching adventures.

Happy Fall!