Phenology Daybook: September 19, 2020


September 19th

The 262nd Day of the Year


The year growing ancient,

Not yet on summer’s death,

Nor on the birth of trembling winter.


William Shakespeare


Sunrise/set: 6:19/6:38

Day’s Length: 12 hours 19 minutes

Average High/Low: 76/55

Average Temperature: 66

Record High: 95 – 1908

Record Low: 34 – 1901


The Daily Weather

While the 19th can be one of the warmer days in middle September (highs in the 90s occurring one year in ten and with 80s coming three in ten), mild 70s are recorded thirty percent of the time, and chilly 60s thirty percent, as well. The possibility of rain declines to 25 percent, and skies are clear to partly cloudy 80 percent of the time.


Natural Calendar

Buckeyes start to burst from their hulls. More black walnuts, more hickory nuts, more acorns and persimmon fruits come down. Mullein stalks stand bare like withered cacti. In the perennial garden, varieties of late hostas, like the August Moon and the Royal Standard, discard their petals. Woolly bear caterpillars appear more often, crossing warm roads in the sun.



1985: Grinnell Swamp: A few late blue lobelias, full bloom of zigzag goldenrod, boneset fading. Black walnuts common on the ground now. Sycamore leaves crunching underneath my feet. At the Covered Bridge, April sedum growing stronger, catchweed blossoming, coming back as the canopy thins. Virginia creeper has been red for a week. Crows loud out by the road. At the river past the bridge, a huge school of suckers or carp spread for maybe fifty feet in front of me.


1986: Yellow jackets swarm around the small white asters in front of the house. Wasps hug the goldenrod. Silver-spotted skippers move through the huge New England asters. Some black walnut trees have lost their leaves. The first woolly bears of the year seen today. Very last raspberries and a few everbearing strawberries picked.


1987: South Glen: Wasps working the goldenrod, skippers and honeybees in the small white asters.


1988: Several black woolly bears seen today. Tree color accelerating.


1989: Jacoby East: Spider webs everywhere. White snakeroot late now, touch-me-not a few last seeds popping still. Wingstem and Joe Pye weed almost complete. Clearweed gone to seed. Buckeye and hulls and acorn shells on the path. Hickory nuts are green, a few fallen. Spots of gold on the yellow poplars. A last Helianthus lateriflorus picked. Some tall coneflowers still intact, and many bull thistles. Squirrels chattering. Fresh waterleaf continuing to grow back, and new sweet Cicely. Hundreds of bees in the patches of small-leafed asters. First autumn violet found blooming. Some box elders bare. Garlic mustard sprouts are about a week old. Katydids, cicadas, crickets still strong. A cardinal sang at twilight.


1993: Along the Mad River, another long flock of starlings, and two huge flocks of geese, one flying north, the other south. In the garden, some red and white phlox are still holding, and pink spider plants, blue spiderwort, and the purple ironweed started from seed. Along the roadsides, the tall artichokes are still in full bloom.


1997: The green frog that lives in the pond was croaking off and on this morning between 5:45 and 6:30 a.m. He was quieter during the earlier cooler days of this month; with the weather warming, he is starting to call again. Now at 9:15 a.m., the squirrel is squeaking in the back locusts. Four monarch butterflies seen in the yard today.


1999: North along the bike path, the landscape is withering from a month without rain, honeysuckle leaves drooping, trees drying up instead of turning. Asters hold in the bud, without enough moisture to bloom. A robin heard, but just one. A patch of bouncing bets hold on down by the junkyard. The frog has been quiet for a week or so.


2001: White snakeroot, late goldenrod, and Jerusalem artichoke prominent now. The maples are gathering momentum. Small patches of gold in a few ashes. Some box elders half brown. Burning bush is turning redder. Last night a screech owl at about 7:15. This morning, another at 5:15. On the way to Columbus: several soybean fields completely rusty brown, cottonwoods deepening into ochre, fence rows of Virginia creeper and poison ivy are darker maroon. At school, the red maple and the white oak show little change from last week, still holding green.


2003: At South Glen, all the wingstem and ironweed are gone. Only goldenrod, Jerusalem artichokes, white and violet asters remain in bloom. A small flock of crows seen as we came back toward the bridge – the first crows I’ve seen close to town all year. Monarchs in the yard again today, and one aging tiger swallowtail.


2004: Gethsemani in Kentucky, 200 miles southwest of Yellow Springs: A decided gilding to the woods throughout the trip. Here, the undergrowth is tattered and old, sweet gums turning red round their edges. One monarch seen here (and only one other when I was driving cross country), one painted lady (Cynthia), and three yellow sulphurs. Several darners noted: one large pale blue, one green, one thin blue. Many Asian ladybugs. Pollen all gone from the ragweed. Field thistles still have a few blooms, but their foliage has withered. Goldenrod, hedge bindweed, Aster vimineus (small white aster) and Aster lateriflorus, black-eyed Susan and white snakeroot still seem strong. I failed to identify the most dominant plant in this habitat: about up to six-feet tall, five white petals in clusters, winged stalks and flower stems (but some of the same flowers without winged stalks or stems), alternate mostly entire leaves – untouched or barely toothed. One sneezeweed, several lobelias, purple loosestrife, boneset. Orchard grass, yard grass (Eleusine indica), Johnson grass, yellow foxtail grass and green foxtail grasses (a larger and smaller sertaria), umbrella sedge (Cyperus strigosus). Chestnuts had just recently fallen to the monastery paths, their large, prickly hulls broken open, round nut exposed. Some chestnuts still hanging on the tree. At the pond, frogs and toads noticed, and I found a small, thin, black and white striped snake perched on the side of a dead sapling. On the way home, some milkweed pods seen open, Jerusalem artichokes tall and bright. Tobacco fields were golden green.


2006: My ash tree at school is a fourth yellow, and other ashes on campus are starting to turn. Mateo’s Jerusalem artichokes are budding, one starting to unravel. Jeanie found a large camel cricket in the dog’s water this evening while I was gone.


2007: At 5:32 a.m., a cardinal gave one melodious, warbling call. Then silence, and no later calls. A hummingbird came to the impatiens as we ate breakfast, stayed a long time, then visited the butterfly bush. A Jerusalem artichoke was full open this morning in the back yard. Mateo’s artichokes are at the exact same point they were last year on this date. During lunch, we watched at least two red-breasted nuthatches coming and going at the feeder. One monarch passed through in the middle of all the nuthatches. Another hummingbird at 4:00 p.m.


2008: To Wilmington yesterday afternoon: One bright red-orange Judas maple, golden fields of soybeans, many plants shedding, corn fields brown and some corn already cut for silage. One large flock of starlings. Dusky summer green holds in the tree line. In the alley, Mateo’s artichokes are not budding yet, his goldenrod has started to rust, and his small-flowered asters full bloom. Katie has some very tall perennial helianthus in her side yard, probably Jerusalem artichokes. Shasta daisies down to one in the north garden. One bright yellow male finch seen today, one yesterday as well. Squirrels have been chattering constantly the past few days, and chasing each other through the high branches.


2009: I went down along the Ohio this past weekend of equinox, stayed at a retreat center near Melbourne, Kentucky. I slept in a room on the third floor of a nineteenth-century convent. My windows, almost eight feet tall, faced southeast toward the river, and I opened them out onto oaks and pines and cirrus and the sounds of the distant highway and the railroad that followed the water.

The land, like the calendar, lay at the edge of fall: scattered cottonwoods, ashes and locusts rich gold and yellow, streaks of orange and red in the maples. Leaf fall was just beginning, mostly from sycamores, buckeyes and hickories: withered leaves tangled in green honeysuckles, some coming down onto acorns and hickory nuts.

There were spots of decay on undergrowth maples, holes eaten, trails left by leafminers, disease spreading across elm leaves, discoloration pushing out from penetration by insects or wind, scarlet veins eating through the paling summer greens, sometimes the change occurring from the outside fringe, invading to core. There were random, pure white leaves on honeysuckle bushes, pale orange bittersweet berries, bright red rose hips, arbitrary blanching of spicebush foliage, magenta Virginia creeper, all mixed like stained glass windows when the sun came out,

Around the buildings, long drifts of white snakeroot stood between the lawn and the woods. Down the hiking path, I found waves of late-season wildflowers, sometimes hundreds of yards of the same variety: communities of tall, yellow touch-me-nots in full bloom up and down an entire hillside, lowlands full of wood nettle going to seed, rows and rows of smartweed along dry streambeds, clusters of dark ferns across an eroded bank. As I came back, I wondered at the graveyard of nuns, perennial stand of gray crosses clustered tight, shoulder-to-shoulder like the wildflowers.

Late in the moonless evening, the societies of katydids and crickets repeated the chants of the retreatants. In the middle of the night, the trains howled and rumbled west along the valley toward Cincinnati, and in the morning Venus shone through the branches. (I thought of Thomas Wolf: “The rails go westward in the dark. Brother, have you seen starlight on the rails? Have you heard the thunder of the fast express?”)


2010: No swallowtails or monarchs noticed today, a warm partly cloudy Sunday. The young cardinals continue to come to the feeders – they do it all by themselves now, having become independent from their parents in just a week.


2011: Cloudy and mild this morning, strong tree crickets, crows at 6:00, cardinal chirps at 6:07. Rain through most of the day, no butterflies noticed. The crickets were very strong at night, however, and even though Gerard’s katydid was not calling, I heard others across the street. Still, it wasn’t as wild as last night’s chorus.


2012: A monarch in the garden.


2013: High grating crickets and lower, more melodic crickets at 5:15 this morning, no loud tree frogs. Cardinal chipping at 6:15, crows at 6:24 – quite late. Then rain. Virgin’s bower completely gone now on the north trellis. The cottonwood near Lawson Place has lost half its leaves. They lie crisp at the side of the street. One monarch seen flying south along the freeway this afternoon. One hummingbird came to the feeder near suppertime.


2014: Painted ladies, sulphurs, cabbage whites, a brown, two Eastern blacks visiting the zinnias in the bright sunlight today. One hummingbird came to the feeder this morning. A few days ago, I saw the first robin in the yard since they disappeared after the fledglings were raised. Then yesterday and the day before, isolated peeps, and now in the early afternoon there is steady robin peeping in the honeysuckles.


2016: Peggy’s virgin’s bower down to maybe a tenth of its flowers. Rick reports a great cloud of lightning bugs rising up from a yard as he walked this evening.


2017: Rain throughout the day bringing down honeysuckle berries and leaves on top of the car. Throughout the neighborhood now (and in the east apple-tree garden) the large-leafed August Moon and Royal Standard hostas are down to their last blossoms. In the north garden, the New England asters are struggling, several buds trying to open, but it seems a disease is weakening some of the plants, killing others. Some burning bush shrubs are fully red.


2018: Monarchs scarce, only one seen in the tithonias today. A full Judas maple in Xenia, corn fields all dry and ready for silage, soybean fields at least half yellowed. I haven’t seen a male tiger swallowtail in what seems like weeks. The hummingbird still comes to the feeder.


2019: Heat and sun. Dry weather affecting many trees and lawns, browning leaves and grass. A monarch, a hummingbird, half a dozen cabbage whites, a glimpse of one small fritillary in the zinnias. Several male goldfinches, their plumage mottled from molting, no robins seen or heard; they have remained hidden since the young fledged. At Ellis Pond, jewelweed fading, the last two bright yellow sundrop blossoms at the very tip of their stalk, the shore lined with golden bur marigolds in full flower. In east Texas, the Houston area, Tropical Depression Imelda brings several feet of rain, flash flooding.


A Note for the Yellow Springs News: Yellow Springs Climate 2035 – 2050


The certainty of nature…is what frees us to be fully human, to be more than simply gatherers of food. But what will happen – this summer or next summer or some summer soon – when that certainty falters?


Bill McKibben, The End of Nature


If I were not connected electronically to the outside world, I would have no idea that a climate Armageddon might be approaching. My backyard notes of the past decades, as well as Dayton records since the 1880s, offer few clues that indicate the coming storm.

The other day, I talked to a man who had been growing corn and soybeans near Yellow Springs for about forty years. When I asked him if he had noticed the climate changing, he shook his head.

“Some years are wet, some dry,” he said. “Some are hot. Some are cold.”

                        Like an isolated settlement of hominids, unaware that invaders are about to destroy them, we live our lives as we have always lived them. It is difficult to imagine radical local change.

But depending on what sources you read, Ohio climate is expected to undergo a significant transformation in the coming decades. According to some scenarios, Yellow Springs weather may be similar to that of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, or Dallas, Texas, by the end of the century.

Perhaps of more immediate interest is the likelihood of the village developing a climate similar to that of central Tennessee by 2035, northern Alabama by 2050. High heat and humidity will accompany that shift, and the chances of bitter cold winter months will fall relatively quickly. The Yellow Springs of 2035 will have many more summer afternoons in the 90s, fewer winter nights below freezing. Will the river or Ellis Pond freeze over in fifteen years? Not likely.

Models also indicate that the winter and spring months will be characterized by greater precipitation. In the Yellow Springs area, that could mean later planting times for farm and garden crops. Local flooding will become more likely, as well. At the same time, it appears that odds for summer droughts will rise since higher temperatures will increase the loss of moisture from the soil.

Among other dangers, “Tornado Alley” (the region, like Oklahoma, associated with high numbers of tornadoes) seems to be moving east, bringing with it an increased possibility of severe storms like the one that struck the area this year. And, like the surprise of a tornado, other changes are likely to occur with little warning.


2020: A low of 39 this morning, full sun and breezy as the day progresses, high in the 60s. Nadia and Steve came by, and we had brunch on the porch, and I got cold, came in and turned the heat on in the house for the first time since spring. At the Glass Farm wetland habitat, goldenrod full, small white asters full, New England asters early. Many cabbage whites, two sulphurs in the fields, one great spangled fritillary lumbering through the Catholic graveyard. A hummingbird wandered in the zinnias today.


women and men (both dong and ding)

summer autumn winter spring

reaped their sowing and went their came

Sun moon stars rain


e.e. cummings

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