Happy almost Halloween!  The leaves are falling, porches are filling up with jack-o-lanterns, and children everywhere are about to get their sugar fix.  I can remember using a large pillow case as my trick-or-treat bag as a child.  I never came close to filling even 1/8 of it, but oh how optimistic I was.  Now that I have a four-year-old of my own, I cringe at the thought of him eating that much candy… I suppose it’s okay, as long as he saves me a few Reese’s PB Cups.

While many of us are preparing for fall festivities, let’s take a quick peak at what’s happening out in nature!

A female turkey (hen) on the left with her young of the year on the right.

This time of year you may see wild turkeys across the landscape.  I see a lot of them along forest edges and harvested agricultural fields.  If you’re real lucky, you might also see a hen with her young.  I snapped this photo the other day while driving to Westport Prairie.  The turkey family was crossing the road and weren’t nearly as shy as I thought they would be.

Hens will often begin building nests in April and will start laying eggs in May.  They usually lay around 12 eggs (1 per day) and the chicks (called poults) hatch in early/mid-June.  Hens will take care of their young through the fall until they venture off on their own.

Food caching is in full swing!

While cleaning up some fallen brush, I noticed a charred log that had a flash of yellow on it.  Upon closer examination, I noticed that there were four unharmed corn kernels inside of a small hole in the log.  It’s fairly obvious that this was the work of a squirrel caching food for the winter.  What’s less obvious is that this squirrel may have been attempting to make popcorn in the woods…

Gray treefrog soaking up the sun.

Recently, while volunteers were helping construct a boardwalk at Patrick Marsh for a local Girl Scout project, we discovered this little treefrog in the vegetation.  It’s a surprise to many that Wisconsin actually has two species of treefrog.  This species, the Eastern gray treefrog lives in and around wetlands and has the ability to change its skin color depending on the temperature.

This time of year, treefrogs are getting ready for winter.  Did you know that as the temperatures drop, treefrogs (as well as many other amphibians) increase the amount of glycerol in their tissues?  Glycerol is a type of alcohol with a lower freezing point than water, which acts as an antifreeze for the frogs.  Resting in a semi-frozen state under the snow isn’t how I’d like to spend my winter, but I’m glad it helps keep our frogs around!

Giant puffball (mushroom).

I’ve been receiving a few emails lately about giant puffball mushrooms out at Patrick Marsh, so I had to take a trip out there to find them myself.  They weren’t hard to miss… I’ve seen plenty of these in the past but none this large.  It honestly looked like someone left a bunch of volleyballs in the prairie.  I’ve read that they are edible if you can harvest them at the correct time, but definitely do your research before eating any mushrooms you find in the wild.

Someone’s watching….

Have you ever had that feeling like someone’s watching you?  I’m guessing that’s what my father-in-law must have felt while out camping in the Adirondacks this month. He sent a photo of this bizarre mushroom that looks almost exactly like a man’s face… While there is a species of mushroom named ‘Old Man of the Woods’, this is not that species.  Could have fooled me!

Well, I hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of nature as it’s happening.  However you experience the outdoors or nature, be it physical, virtual, spiritual, or anything in between, I encourage you to do it!

See you next month!