Signs of Autumn: Birds, Leaves, and Fading Sunlight

What are the first signs of fall? What happens to nature in the fall?

September 10, 2020
Red-Tailed Hawk

Hawks migrating, bears foraging, acorns falling. Signs of fall are all around. Anyone who’s sweated their way through a long hot summer might be ready for a change of season. What says autumn to you? 

The signs of fall start much earlier than the autumnal equinox on September 22, 2020, even if the weather still feels summery. Look very closely. Use your observational skills and your five senses.

Sunlight

Have you noticed it’s darker now in the mornings? The sun is rising later—and setting earlier, too. The days get noticeably shorter as it gets dark earlier each night. See your Sunrise/Sunset Times and Length of Day.

If you closely observe the Sun’s path across the sky, you’ll see the arc is shifting south. Did you know that birds and butterflies migrate along with the path of the Sun?

Scent

Breathe in. The outdoors begins to smell a bit different. Do you smell the air changing? Perhaps you smell the plants’ leaves browning or the fallen leaves on the ground?

Insects

Listen at night. You’ll hear the insects singing slower on cool evenings. In fact, did you know that you can tell the temperature by a cricket’s chirp? Find out how.

As the days get shorter and nights get longer, the garden spider spins its web at night, giving it more time to build a larger web during the fall months. (A garden spider does not find food inside your house; in fact, she helps eat insects and prevents them from entering your home!)

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Credit: Getty

Birds

Listen. Do you hear the calls of geese flying overhead? Hawks, geese, and swallows are migrating south for the winter. 

Near The Old Farmer’s Almanac offices in New Hampshire is a mountain that’s known for being a hawk hotspot. At the summit, you’ll view kettles of hawks soaring in the sky. The hawk migration means that their food supply of frogs, snakes, and forest creatures is dwindling—a clear sign of summer’s end! Read more about hawks and birds of prey.

Many readers report that their hummingbirds have left or are leaving for warmer climates as early as mid-August.

Some butterflies migrate while others stay closer to home and begin to seek shelter for the cooler months. Try to leave some leaf litter for your beneficial insects!

Bears

Birds aren’t the only creatures hinting that cold weather’s coming. Our Almanac publisher saw a bear crossing the road in the middle of her walk! Late August to mid-September is prime time for blackberries. Bears are gorging to build up their fat stores before they hibernate.

Folklore says …

It is going to be a tough winter if bears are seen berrying.

Squirrels

If you walk dogs, you’ll see that the squirrels are back. They’re collecting ripe brown acorns for their winter stash. Lots of seeds are falling now. 

Watch for squirrels hiding nuts.

According to folklore …

If the oak bear much mast [acorns], it foreshadows a long and hard winter.

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In autumn, mushrooms and other fungi pop up everywhere!

Plants

Of course, another way we know autumn’s approaching is to observe the plants.  

Squash, pumpkin, nuts, and apples are ready for harvest. The other vegetables in the garden are slowing down, ending their cycle of growth.  

Acorns, pinecones, and sycamore “helicopters” fall to the ground. Mushrooms and other fungi pop up everywhere.

Grass doesn’t grow as fast. You’ll also see morning dew. Fall flowers such as asters and goldenrods begin to bloom.

When you’re walking outdoors, seeds will stick to your jacket or socks.

Some trees’ leaves are already falling. And the leaves on many of the trees are starting to change color. Observe the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns of falling leaves. Interestingly, leaves do not change because of cooler temperatures alone. Find out why autumn leaves change colors

Weather

It’s not just the tree’s colorful clothing that changes. It’s our own! Shorter days means cooler weather’s coming. The air begins to feel crisper, especially in the morning.

The direction of the wind changes and windy days become more common. Hurricanes and tropical storms begin to happen.

Get ready to add a layer of clothes for a walk in the woods! Add a soft blanket to the sofa. Get cozy!

Fall also means picking up the newest edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac for winter weather predictions!

What says “autumn” to you? Just comment below to let us know (and include your location!).

About This Blog

Your Old Farmer’s Almanac editors occasionally share our reflections, advice, and musings—and welcome your comments!

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