Fall officially starts next week with the annual Autumnal Equinox occurring on Sept. 22. You don’t need a calendar, though, to feel the subtle changes in the Tehachapi Mountains as summer gives way to fall.
The word “equinox” is formed by combining the Latin words for “equal” (aequus) and “night” (nox). So the word means “equal night,” and refers to the fact that on both the Spring Equinox and the Autumnal Equinox, day and night are of virtually equal length. Not exactly, but on those two days, each is about 12 hours long.
September has been described as the month when the heat of summer meets the chill of autumn, and in Tehachapi that has already been the case, as daytime temperatures in the high 80s are paired with nighttime lows in the high 40s.
So, sweating in a short-sleeved shirt in the afternoon, shivering in a jacket in the early morning. This is not an uncommon occurrence in the Tehachapi Mountains.
The natural world has started to respond to the impending end of summer. Most insects have undergone whatever metamorphosis they’re going to for this year, and have also been laying eggs for next year’s generation(s).
Although there are many exceptions, most insects’ entire lifespan only lasts for one year or less. And their adult stage may only be for a few weeks or even a few days.
I encountered a praying mantis last week, a gravid female whose belly was large with eggs. She was no doubt about to create the durable oothecae, or egg cases that praying mantids use to house their babies over the winter.
These resemble a small, domed-shaped blob of rootbeer foam, which the female attached to a plant stem, tree branch, wooden fence post, or some other sturdy place where the egg case can unobtrusively wait out the winter without being noticed.
The last clutches of young birds have fledged, and I think in some ways they have a harder time than their earlier counterparts. The last ravens to be produced in a year seem like they are the smallest, for example, and when I see them drinking water from a puddle or scrounging a meal, I have to glance twice to make sure they aren’t actually their smaller relatives the crows.
And I always do look carefully if I think I see crows, since they are highly uncommon up in the Tehachapi Valley and higher surrounding mountains. Ravens are ubiquitous, but crows are seldom seen here.
Reptiles are still active – quite active, actually, since they don’t have many more weeks before cold temperatures will drive them into their hibernaculums to wait for warmer weather in spring. I’ve seen both adult lizards and tiny young hatchlings out hunting arthropod prey on warm afternoons, getting some calories to seem them through the upcoming long sleep.
So flowers are still blooming, bees and butterflies are still in flight, a few crickets are still fiddling at night, but change is a’comin’. The mule deer fawns are getting bigger and loosing their spots, the first leaves are just starting to turn and some are dropping. . . Say goodbye to summer.
Have a good week.
Jon Hammond has written for Tehachapi News for more than 30 years. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.