Nature Notes

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There are two types of people in this part of the world: those that hate the end of summer, and those that are overjoyed at the beginning of fall.

There’s no doubt, fall is a great time to view wildlife at Lake James State Park and the surrounding countryside. Whether you’re into the little stuff, like butterflies and bees, or the big stuff, like whitetailed deer and eagles, there’s a lot to look at during your next hike around the park.

The native plant gardens around the Paddy’s Creek Area bathhouse and picnic shelters are abuzz with activity. Joe-pye weed, narrow-leafed sunflower, New York ironweed and assorted asters are blooming and the pollinators are swarming the pollen and nectar-rich flowers. The best time to observe this riot of activity is warm, sunny days, but there is usually something to see even when the clouds roll in. This time of year, the most abundant butterflies are silver-spotted skippers, fiery skippers, common buckeyes and tiger swallowtails (both yellow and black color morphs). Be on the lookout for less-common species like, great purple hairstreak, Brazilian skipper, Gulf fritillary and monarch. There are also numerous types of bees and wasps, day-time moths, ruby-throated hummingbirds, American goldfinches; the list goes on and on. In fact, the closer you look, the more you’ll see.

By all accounts it was a productive summer for many park critters. Many visitors have been delighted by the abundance of young white-tailed deer, wild turkeys and eastern cottontail rabbits that tend to hang around the roadsides in the park. Those youngsters serve as a good reminder to watch your speed as you travel within the park. The 25 mile-per-hour limit is enforced so that wildlife and humans have a better chance to cross the park road safely.

If you have kids or you know a few, try to make it your goal to get them into the great outdoors during this fantastic fall weather. You could take them hiking, mountain biking, picnicking or bring them to one of the ranger-led programs scheduled throughout the week (see list starting on page 2).

Hope to see you out on the trail.