Bayou-Diversity (26 August 2018) In Louisiana, September is the season of winding down, of transition to better times or places. It is as if all things in the natural world are fed up with the necessary struggles to carry on in the heat and humidity of our subtropical summers. Within the trunks of white oaks and black hickories the growth rings of summer wood form a defined edge. The trees stop growing. Buckeyes have long since lost their leaves and those of black gum flame scarlet in protest. Each fleeting breeze that follows an afternoon shower convinces a few of the bold leaves to jump first from the treetops and not wait for a bona fide autumn zephyr. Daytime drones of cicadas and nocturnal tremolos of katydids are slower now and only half-hearted, like a dragging record on an old 33 rpm player. Their wings and other noise-making instruments are worn out. As for the porch lizards, the anoles stop posturing and flashing their blood-red dewlaps. Maintaining sacrosanct territories is not as important any more. It is the same with feathered creatures. The dawn chorus of birdsong is downbeat, lacking the defensive intensity of prior weeks when nothing mattered more than immediate procreation. For those birds that will migrate, why fuss over soon to be abandoned battleground? Already, some species are slipping away quietly as shorter days flip a switch hidden deep in their brains that compels a mysterious journey, for many the first in their young lives. Some go alone; others like purple martins and chimney swifts, congregate to make a party out of the trip. Even the white shrimp begin their migration from the estuaries to the Gulf as water temperature cools. Back on land, resident fox squirrels finish cutting the bitter, green pine cones, and deer wander listlessly in search of nutritious forage in this most difficult time of year for their tribes. All of their kind await the ripening of acorns.
An old, traditional verse helps us remember the days of the months on the Julian calendar. In it we proclaim, “Thirty days hath September,” and for many wild plants and animals they can’t pass too soon.