October 5th – Why Don’t Leaves Fall At Night?

This weekend will mark the height of colour in southern Ontario.


This early Thanksgiving weekend will mark the height of Fall colours in southern Ontario. Many of the trees at Ruthven have changed and reds, golds and bronzes abound.

Of course, then these lovely leaves fall off and invariably many, very many, find their way into our open nets. Aarrg!
I’ve given a lot of thought to a very interesting phenomenon: leaves don’t seem to fall at night. I can think of only one instance where I’ve ever seen this happen (backlit by a full moon, the falling leaves were like snowflakes). Why is this? The only reason I can come up with and which makes sense is….arboreal malevolence. I know, I know. I shouldn’t be anthropomorphizing this but let’s face it, there’s more to trees than we used to think. Trees communicate – chemically, at least. In an interesting experiment, scientists covered some trees completely with nets so insects couldn’t get at them and then subjected uncovered trees to an insect infestation. The infested trees reacted by changing the chemical composition of their leaves to make themselves less palatable. But…and here’s the kicker…the protected trees also changed their chemical composition in the same way. How did they know? They communicate somehow – probably chemically – and who knows what level of communication they carry on.

Swainson's Thrush -B. Oldfield


Which brings me back to my original question: why don’t leaves fall at night? It’s simple – because I’m not there. The trees save them up in order to dump them into my nets starting 2-3 hours before closing time. And why? To piss me off…that’s why. And this malevolence I don’t understand. I’m on the side of trees. I’ve planted 100’s of trees and shrubs at Ruthven if not 1,000’s. Maybe it’s their silent protest at my slaughter of the myriad young Black Walnuts that are trying to take over the Butterfly Meadow. I can’t think of any other reason. Anyway, we are presently catching a LOT more leaves than birds and it’s taking well over an hour to close nets at the end of the day (as you can’t close nets with leaves in them if you want to open them easily the next morning). So in the silence of the early morning, as I trek from net to net, opening as I go, I have been listening for any sign of communication. Sometimes I think I pick up a low grumbling….but that could be my empty stomach seeking muffins. It’s a mystery. What can I do to get back on their good side. (Hmmm…do they have a good side?)

Blue-headed Vireo -B. Oldfield


Today was sort of a surprise as the major catching net – #2 by the feeder complex – got very few of the birds. Most were caught in nets 6 and 10 (37 and 25 birds respectively). Also a surprise: American Goldfinches weren’t #1 on the catch list; Myrtle (or Yellow-rumped) Warblers were (37 vs 22). And we didn’t catch any “new” White-throated Sparrows. I think many birds will be moving with this front. Tomorrow should be interesting (if the showers will let us open the nets).

A "mustachioed" (and therefore male) Northern Flicker -S. Oldfield


Banded 84:
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Northern Flicker
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Blue Jay
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Hermit Thrush
1 Gray Catbird
3 Cedar Waxwings
1 Blue-headed Vireo
4 Nashville Warblers
37 Myrtle Warblers
1 Common Yellowthroat
3 Chipping Sparrows
1 Song Sparrow
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 Purple Finch
22 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 46 spp.
Fall Banding Total: 2,551
Year-to-Date Banding Total: 5,136

Rick

1 thought on “October 5th – Why Don’t Leaves Fall At Night?

  1. Catching up with your blog today…and laughing out loud. Reading the Ruthven blog and enjoying your photos is the way I start my day. It nearly always puts me in a good frame of mind. Thanks…and watch out for those trees…if you’re really on their bad side, they can do worse than filling your nets with leaves!

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