It’s been a warm, dry fall so far. With the drought, birds and critters have appreciated the water in birdbaths and the pond. But the drought was broken as reported in our previous post, and we have started hearing toads again at night.
A flock of several hundred grackles passed through a few days ago and we have started seeing Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Surely colder weather is not far off.
Trees do so much for us and this time of year they are just spectacular. All of these pictures were taken today in Peachtree Park, perhaps a week past their prime. Enjoy them and help protect our trees.
Fall! And except for the lack of rain, the weather has been glorious. Walk through the neighborhood and treat your visual senses to the spectacular color of our trees.
But once those leaves are on the ground, you’ll experience another sensory overload: the constant din of leaf blowers. Six days a week, at all times of the day, there is the racket of a leaf blower to be heard somewhere in the neighborhood. Just listen to this example (you might want to turn down the volume).
Here’s our pitch to reduce the auditory assault of these machines and use a rake instead. It’s great exercise and also helps out wildlife, trees and plants. Plus, nothing is more fun than playing in a pile of beautiful fall leaves!
Consider these points:
While a layer of leaves is not good for lawns, other plants and trees will thrive with undisturbed leaf litter. If the leaves are removed, so are the nutrients that feed the plant. Lawns also benefit from a light layer of chopped leaves (the mulch setting on most lawn mowers).
Many beneficial insects make their home in leaf litter 
Leaf blowers don’t just blow away leaves, but they blow away topsoil as well. They also fill the air with contaminates including toxic chemicals (used by some lawn services), allergens, molds and other things better left undisturbed. 
Leaf blowers were not invented to remove leaves, but as crop dusters. In other words, they are a solution that went searching for a problem. 
Leaf blowers interfere with animals’ ability to communicate with each other. This makes it difficult to find mates, hunt and avoid predators. 
Now, without a leaf blower around, you can hear this:
In our mid-September post we asked Can You Spot the Monarch in the Crowd? The great news is that a few are being spotted here now! In our yard we saw two the first of October and two more yesterday. The photo below shows a monarch on a Georgia Aster, both stunning beauties in need of your help.
Monarch Butterfly on Georgia Aster
While the egg and caterpillar stages of the monarch are restricted to milkweed (the Monarch’s only host plant), adults require other flowers to feed on. Some great fall blooming pollinator-friendly plants are Georgia Aster, Goldenrod, Black-eyed Susan, native Sunflower and Pineapple Sage. 
Georgia Asters bloom in October and November providing food for pollinators. They are perennials with woody stems up to 3 feet tall, have thick, dark green leaves and purple flowers ranging from dark purple to lavender-violet to dark reddish purple.
Native Bee on Georgia Aster
The Georgia Aster is suffering in the wild due to its small, isolated populations and having its natural environment disturbed by humans.  Only 146 populations are estimated to remain. 
Especially if you are foraging for food, Like the Song Sparrow below in the native grass.
Song Sparrow on native grass
Native grass seedhead
We plant for color and to attract pollinators in the spring, summer and fall. But when winter comes and the garden turns brown, leaving plants with seed heads will provide much needed food for all manner of wildlife – especially birds.
Like this row of river oats beside the path.
River Oats in Winter
River Oats in Spring
River Oats seedheads
Goldenrod’s spectacular fall display leaves much in the way of food.
Goldenrod in the Fall
Goldenrod in the Winter
Seeds in the heart of spent Coneflowers and Black-eyed Susans are a bonus.
Black-eyed Susan seedhead
American Goldfinch on Cone Flower
Cone Flower seedhead
Even plants in pots on the deck can provide good foraging material.