Fall

Here's what you might see going on around you this Fall.

Canadian Geese
Migrating birds try to reserve their energy. Canada geese fly in large V formations to reduce air resistance.

Birds head south before the snow falls

With cold weather just around the corner, many of Minnesota's birds start itching for warmer winter digs. However, only about half of our birds migrate before the winter. The other half live on seeds and insect grubs. Some of the birds that don't migrate include black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, pigeons and ruffed grouse.

Changing Clothes

Scarlet tanager with summer coatScarlet tanager with summer breeding coat
Courtesy Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program

The scarlet tanager migrates each fall to wintering grounds in South America. If you spot any tanagers right before migration, they'll probably be wearing a winter coat. Males molt their feathers from the bright red of breeding season to an olive green and yellow.

Mexico or bust!

Monarch ButterflyMonarch Butterfly

Watch for monarch butterflies heading to their wintering grounds in the mountains near Mexico City. The butterflies use air currents to carry them on their annual trek. In the spring, the surviving monarchs migrate as far north as Texas, mating, laying eggs on milkweed plants, and then dying. The monarchs you'll see in Minnesota next spring are probably the grandchildren of those you spot this fall.

The last of the dog day insects

CicadaCicada

Through early fall, listen for the chirping calls of Minnesota's crickets and cicadas. Crickets make their songs by rubbing a sharp ridge on one wing against a rough spot on the other. As the cricket rubs, its wings start to vibrate, creating the sound. Male cicadas make their pulsating, high-pitched buzz to attract mates from high in the hardwood trees. But by the end of September, after they've mated and laid their eggs, the adult cicadas die.

Cicadas spend most of their life underground. Born in trees, young cicadas drop to the earth after they hatch and tunnel into the soil. They feed on root sap for 13 to 17 years until they emerge from their dark burrows. In adult form, these insects can't eat-they don't even have mouths! Adult cicadas live only as long as it takes to mate and lay eggs.

Field CricketField Cricket

Cold-blooded field crickets need heat to warm up their instrumental wings. That's why we hear their singing in late afternoons or early evenings in summer and early fall.

The Season of Sneeze

Goldenrod
Goldenrod in bloom

"People often blame their hay fever on goldenrod pollen, but ragweed's the real culprit. Ragweeds have small green flowers that unleash huge amounts of pollen from late summer to early fall. Interestingly enough, hay fever sufferers often find relief in northeastern Minnesota, where goldenrods grow, but not ragweeds."

Dick Oehlenschlager with herbarium sheets
Dick with his herbarium sheets, or cards on which he mounts plants collected in Wadena County. He's collected close to 10,000 plant specimens.