The fall season at Fossil Rim is unique to say the least.
You can’t walk around the Overlook area without hearing the European red deer bugle. All of the goats at the Children’s Animal Center are getting their fluffy winter coats, making petting them even more satisfying. Discovery After Dark programs are equally as exciting, watching all of the fallow deer males duke it out for their next mate.
But, what about a typical Texas fall? What does that look like? Now you might be wondering, what does an education intern from North Carolina know about Texas seasons? But, with no prior experience, I am able to pick up on the little things a Texan native might overlook.
All of our little skinks that hang around the cabins have disappeared. Most of our cold-blooded friends go into brumation, which is similar to hibernation. Reptiles and some amphibians usually don’t eat, drink, or even move during these periods.
You also might find them burrowing themselves to avoid the harsh cold. Of course, you might find more snakes close to buildings. They’re just there to leech off the heat of the buildings – can’t pay the bills when you’re not eating as much.
At Wolf Ridge Nature Camp, we have plenty of mammalian coworkers that are not of the human kind. There is a group of about 10 white-tailed deer that are starting to bulk up for the wintertime by feeding during the day around our education office.
I knew fall was around the corner when the bucks started making an appearance and the fawns didn’t have their spots anymore. Our local armadillo that travels around the Overlook area has gotten friskier with the wet weather. He seems to be aerating the soil more frequently looking for those little bugs he loves so much.
Now, you can’t imagine fall without the amazing number of migrations. When the weather has become frigid in the northern hemisphere, some species like to take a nice vacation down south. I’m used to only seeing an abnormal amount of Canada geese blow through North Carolina.
I wasn’t expecting to see so many new migrating birds when I came to Texas. The office has seen various waterfowl, and even some pelicans, heading south. Of course, I couldn’t talk about migrating birds without considering how some new friends have joined “Ichabod,” our resident sandhill crane.
But not all of the cranes choose to stop over. Just the other day, as everyone was leaving for the day, we heard a herd, or dance, of sandhill cranes passing overhead.
Also, I can’t forget the monarch butterfly migrations! Previously interning at a rainforest exhibit/ butterfly room, I’m used to seeing a weird amount of butterflies in one place.
However, when Mark Phillips, education specialist, brought up the days of the anticipated monarch butterfly flyover, I wasn’t expecting to see so many. I had never before in my life seen so many monarchs, or any type of wild butterfly. I just wanted to spend the whole day outside walking across camp to see them all pop out of the trees.
Migrations are cool to watch or observe, but they also serve an important ecological role. The process is important to the reproductive process of most species, as the conditions are preferable in the region they are traveling.
Additionally, these species have so many adaptations to cater to their need to travel far distances. Many of the migratory species across the world are some of the most vulnerable, as they have lost some or even all of their associated habitats over time.
Fall is an amazing time of year – one of my favorites. Even though it has been a very wet and cold one so far, it doesn’t make seeing the little things about fall less enjoyable. So, throw on that light jacket, pick up those pumpkin spice lattes, and take some time to enjoy a sensational season.
-Brianna Sorber, Conservation Education Intern