Phenology Daybook: November 11, 2020

November 11th

The 315th Day of the Year


Leaves are falling from their branches,

All their power gone.

Trees are pale and bare.

Streams run high through the empty fields.

Frost burns the last, soft sprouts.

Birds huddle in these shortest days

and mourn the chill of the sky:

Our golden sun is fleeing into Sagittarius,

Leaving days of snow and nights of ice.


Manuscript of Benedictbeurn, De ramis cadunt folia


Sunrise/set: 7:15/5:23     ​       ​

Day’s Length: 10 hours 8 minutes

Average High/Low: 52/35       ​

Average Temperature: 44

Record High: 75 – 1902        ​

Record Low: 20 – 1980


The Daily Weather

Today’s high temperature distribution: 70s five percent, 60s ten percent, 50s thirty percent, 40s twenty percent, 30s thirty-five percent. A dramatic increase in the number of freezing predawn temperatures starts today, the lows below 32 growing from a frequency average of 40 percent up to 70 percent. Rain occurs 25 percent of the years, snow 15 percent.


The Natural Calendar

​In a collage of different years, the second week of November in Yellow Springs, mixes storms and frost, butterflies and the seemingly fickle times of leaf fall from one tree and season to the next.

The day’s length, refocused from the change from Daylight Saving Time, pulls back the progress of the year to the sunrise time of late February and the first days of Early Spring, but now the sun goes down almost as late as it does in Deep Winter.

Some years, the tallest maples and the ginkgo trees are bare by Armistice Day. Sometimes they are full gold. White mulberry trees can remain green or lose their foliage in a day. Some years, the pear trees that used to grace the downtown were ruddy and shedding, other years they kept the village in summer.

Grackles and starlings sometimes visit Bill Duncan Park, sometimes cross the sky from northeast to southwest in long files. Some years the robins are still plentiful in the honeysuckles. Sometimes they are gone by now. Canadian geese are restless, sometimes gather in sizeable numbers in the fields near Ellis Pond. Sometimes they don’t. Usually, male goldfinches have lost their gold by the first week of November. This year, I watched a goldfinch feeding, still half-summer like my mulberry tree.

Some years on warm evenings, a few crickets still sing. In the milder afternoons, cabbage white butterflies come out to look for the last flowers. Two years ago this week, I even saw a monarch butterfly sail across the yard. Twenty years ago this week, I found a grass snake lying in the sun near the old dam past the mill. One year we had the first snow and then deep frost this week.

 Even in the varied events of Late Fall’s arrival this week, the point-counterpoint of warmth and cold, the differences in the times and quality of peak leaf color, seen against the same week through the decades, has its own character. In human history, the close of the Great War is only one of an endless number of events to be woven into the fabric of memory. Even as the climate changes, natural history still repeats itself enough to form a separate space for these days within the local year, a place in which the greater anomalies are only part of the counterpoint.



1983: The white mulberry in the back yard is coming down quickly now. A few Queen Anne’s lace still in bloom along Wilberforce-Clifton Road.


1984: The white mulberry begins to lose its leaves, but they are still mostly green. First snow. First snowball made. Kale and chard thriving in the changeable weather, one-day frost, then rain, then a day in the 70s. The grass still growing.


1985: How many notes and observations are enough? There are never enough.


1986: From my east window, I see the ginkgo leaves all came down last night with the first snow. The white mulberry dropped all its leaves overnight, too. Bradford pears trees uptown are more stubborn; they darken slowly, browning and stiffening.


1990: Geese flew over about 8:00 this morning. Almost all leaves down along the freeway, but one willow was green.


1991: Upper Grinnell: Honeysuckle is still a barrier in places. Miterwort foliage is strong. High sun on the treetops at sundown. The silver winding river, the fallen logs invisible in summer, lie below me in the bare valley.


1992: Many sweet gum trees are still red orange in town, have most of their leaves. The south lilac is green and full. It is still Middle Fall in the Osage woods.


1993: At South Glen, dozens of robins just inside the preserve at the bridge. They seem to be heading south along the tree line. I found them here a week or so ago, too. Were they separated from a main flock? Will they spend the winter? One dandelion blossom seen, milkweed pods coming completely undone, seeds adrift. Only occasional asters in very late bloom here and there, maybe one or two pale flowers to a plant.


1999: In this mildest November, the white mulberry holds at half. A few ginkgoes on High Street have kept half their leaves, too.


2001: South Glen: a dozen turkey vultures circling low over the butterfly preserve.


2002: Cardinals sing at 6:53 this morning, continue on and off for an hour or so. The sun came up over the south corner of the Danielson’s house (as seen from my bedroom window). Tornadoes in Van Wert, a hundred miles north, last night. The hostas here collapsed in the overnight inch-and-a-half rain. My shed window maple leaves came down, too. More than half the honeysuckles are gone. Most of the redbuds have lost their foliage, maybe three dozen leaves hold on our tree in the north yard. Lil’s maple has about a third of its leaves. Stella d’oro lilies still have buds. The beech on Dayton Street is full copper-orange. The yearling peach still has all its leaves, but the parent tree beside it has been bare for weeks. Robins whinnying in the back lot.


2006: In the yard, I found seed heads everywhere, spent rose petals, rose hips I should have cut back a month ago, dried hydrangea blossoms covered in spider webs, Joe Pye weed bushy and dun like burdock, three blue spiderworts out of season, hops heavy across the honeysuckles, oodles of black redbud seeds hanging like manes in the branches, the soft green seeds of the fierce wood nettle, red crab apples bigger than I’d ever noticed before, stiff and prickly burrs of purple coneflowers.

Everything around me seemed benign and soothing: a handful of soft, dark red raspberries from the patch that failed to produce much of anything this year, crabgrass gone to seed, its claws not threatening but protective, the summer mallow crumbling away, a skipper and a naked lady butterfly and a cabbage white ruffled by the breeze in the zinnias, honeybees climbing in the asters, and the chirping and chirping of sparrows north of the garden.

As I walked, the wind picked up, pushing fat cumulus clouds so fast, and I felt surrounded and safe within an enclosure of motion and sound. All of a sudden the air was cold and clouds moved over me, and the afternoon turned cruel and hollow. Then just as quickly there was sun again, and I felt at home and at peace.


2007: Gray and rainy today, the High Street maples are shedding: the Danielsons’ the most, then Lil’s, then Mrs. Timberlake’s. In the alley, one dandelion, one purslane, a few violet aster plants three or four inches tall with flowers, one goldenrod stalk bright gold in Don’s garden, one yellow stella d’oro, too. We’ve had many light frosts but no hard frost yet; the elephant ears are bedraggled and singed, but some are still tall and healthy. Most of the tree of heaven foliage stays, as well, burned but remaining attached to the branches. The white mulberry tree and Rachel’s ginkgo are completely green, and many of our redbuds keep their red-green leaves. Moya’s maple and the secret maple both came down about four days ago.


2008: The white mulberry leaves began to break off this morning at dawn. Then they fell through the morning, all down by the time I went out to the woodpile after lunch. On High Street a ways, the Osage tree lost most of its leaves within a few hours. Our Osage remains impassive.


2009: Mrs. Timberlake’s silver maple is almost all down, as is Frank’s. Starlings chattering to the north. The ginkgo on Dayton Street is coming down quickly, more than three-fourths shed, and the white mulberry in the back yard had lost at least half its leaves by this morning, after a hard wind all night. Ruby called about 11:00 o’clock, wished me happy 11/11 at 11. She told me the story of her Armistice Day of 91 years ago in Yosemite, Kentucky. Her family’s party-line phone rang (five short rings for her house) at 11:00 p.m. The news was that the armistice had been signed. All the women in the town, Ruby said, grabbed a rolling pin and started beating on pans or whatever. The men “shot off anvils” – placing dynamite in the hole of one anvil, setting another anvil on top of that, and then setting it off with a black-powder fuse. “You could hear that around the world,” she said.


2010: Crows heard at 7:01, starlings singing on the east side of Stafford Street at 10:00, occasional robins, many sparrows chattering, the weather cool and clear. In the alley, Mrs. Timberlake’s silver maple and Frank’s silver maple still hold pale green and gold, leaves contracting now. This afternoon I cut the grass for the last time, the temperature in the middle 60s, sky clear and the air still. From Springfield, Missouri, Jeffery Goss, Jr. writes: “First juncos and starlings of the season.”


2011: A sizeable flock of starlings this morning around 10:00 along Stafford Street. The New England aster and the goldenrod foliage is turning violet-ochre. The oak-leaf hydrangeas are purple-red. The Annabelle hydrangea is a pale yellow. Today, the river birch in the backyard lost all its leaves. Rachel’s ginkgo is down, but the Dayton Street ginkgo is still holding at full color. The downtown pears have turned and have shed about half their leaves, and the Dayton Street beech is two-thirds gone, our white mulberry and Osage still strong.


2012: The scarlet oaks at Ellis Pond have shed most of their leaves, and the sawtooth oak is ochre now and starting to lose its foliage. It will be the last tree to come down. The swamp chestnut oak, though, is holding its dried, shriveled, brittle leaves: how long will they stay? At home, deeper turning of the New England aster leaves, and Jeanie’s river birch has turned to a pale full gold. The day was mild in the 70s with a strong breeze, and I planted the last of the spring bulbs in the circle garden, in the front garden and around the birch and cherry trees: one hundred aconites, five golden crocus and nine early spring orange tulips. In the warm sun, honey bees and bee flies and bumble bees swarmed around the blooms of the last red-orange mum.


2014: The Dayton Street birch is full orange-gold-green, at least half gone. Three buzzards were circling the village, and a medium-sized flock of starlings passed over High Street when I was walking Bella around 9:00 this morning.


2015: Two of the Xenia Avenue ginkgoes still hold most of their leaves; Rachel’s ginkgo is half down, others in town ragged. Robins still peeping in the morning. Great mare’s tails in the sky all day, the wind picking up in the late afternoon, storms and hard wind forecast for tonight (snow across the southern Plains). As I went to the gym, I looked up and saw two dozen vultures circling but also seeming to move toward the southwest. Many dandelions and a few violets blooming in the Antioch lawn. At home, two small, yellow reblooming lily blossoms are nodding below the ripe bittersweet. I set in the last of almost four hundred bulbs before dark, twenty large yellow crocus in the dooryard and twenty-four aconites at the west end of the fishpond.


2017: To Cincinnati and back, hard freeze at 22 degrees: One large flock of starlings or blackbirds, several small murmurations of starlings. Morning mare’s tails turned to gray altostratus by noon. There was no frost on the car window yesterday morning, even though it was sunny through until night, and no frost this morning: the warm front gave a two-day warning. Rain tomorrow.


2018: The white mulberry has shed its leaves throughout the day, almost all of them gone by dark. In the countryside, only the deep maroon oaks, some mottled sycamores and sweet gums and occasional Norway maples hold along the tree lines. Ed Oxley told me that thousands of crows have started to gather north of town in the fields along East Enon Road.


2020: With last night’s rain, Lil’s maple and burning bush, Moya’s tulip tree, Peggy’s pear tree, Jill’s Japanese maple, most of the yard’s honeysuckles and the Dayton Street beech have fallen. At the pond, the geese are hunkered down in the fields. The cypress trees are bare, oak grove thinning.


All things that breathe and move with toil and sound

Are born and die; revolve, subside and swell.


Percy Bysshe Shelley


  1. Barbara A Valdez

    I think how pleased the Lord would be by the way in which you notice and report Creation in all its detail and glory. I missed hearing you read this and shall look for that elsewhere?

    1. Bill Felker (Post author)

      Thanks, Barbara, as always. These phenology daybook entries are separate from the podcasts. The latter draw from the daybook, but leave so much out! In the new year, I hope to have a full 12-month daybook published in one volume. Everything to that point should be inside.


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