Nature Notebook, September 21, 2017

09/21/2017

The autumnal equinox on Friday, Sept. 22 notes the calendar beginning of fall in the northern hemisphere. It is called “Mabon” in the Celtic calendar, and is a time to celebrate the harvest and to rest after the busy summer season. The coming full moon on Oct. 4 will be this year’s “harvest moon,” or the full moon closest to the fall equinox.

Bigleaf maples are turning color; they are brilliant gold among the deep evergreen coast redwoods of Samuel P. Taylor State Park along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. Look closely at the crimson poison oak vines for fat clusters of white berries that provide winter food to song birds. Plenty of green oak acorns are falling to the ground and drawing in black-tailed deer, which will feast on them.  

Coveys of quail are also taking advantage of the end-of-summer bounty of seeds. Typically, quail pairs lay 12 to 15 eggs in a ground nest. They have an expandable pouch in their neck—called a crop—to store hard seeds, which are then processed through a muscular stomach area called a gizzard. If disturbed, they run quickly for shelter, storing food to digest later. A male quail usually perches like a sentry on a high branch or post above the feeding covey, ready to give an alert if a predator is spotted.