Fall into flowers: Nature is preparing for the upcoming Lake Tahoe winter
September 15, 2016
TAHOE-TRUCKEE — Summer is winding down, which means fall is not far behind. During the early fall months, Nature begins to prepare for the upcoming winter.
Deciduous trees grow new leaves in the spring. The green leaves rich in chlorophyll work during the summer converting sunlight into energy in a process called photosynthesis.
The tree takes up water through its roots and the leaves absorb carbon dioxide from the air — converting them into sugars which is called carbon fixation. The tree is removing carbon dioxide from the air and replacing it with oxygen — one reason why our forests are important to the health of the planet.
A noticeable indicator of fall, the leaves of deciduous trees begin to change color. During the long, sunny days of summer, the leaves are kept green by the chlorophyll, but as the light wanes, the chlorophyll begins to break down, leaving behind the carotenoids (the oranges and browns) and making way for the anthocyanins to develop, producing the brilliant reds and purples.
Eventually the leaves fall to the ground, where they can decompose and provide nutrients for the tree during the next growing season.
Fall is a time when birds prepare for their long journey to warmer climes where food is more plentiful. Some will make a stop at one of the various mountain bodies of water in our area along the way, making this a good time to pursue bird watching.
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A person who knows about birds and has a website devoted to his photos and observations (tahoebirding.com) is Scott Dietrich.
Scott got bit by the birding bug in college. Like most of us who develop an interest, he suddenly noticed the various elements of nature that had been present around him all along. Once the group of birds become individual species to the observer, curiosity takes over and a need to know more grows.
Scott graduated from college in Sacramento, and is currently pursuing a master's degree at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, while continuing to nurture his love of birds. The next two summers will be spent near Truckee, conducting research for his grad school project, the willow flycatcher.
On the site tahoebirding.com, he has called out some areas, broken down by North, South, East and West Shores of the lake as good areas to observe birds.
Perhaps his favorite area is the Upper Truckee Marsh, located in South Lake Tahoe. The marsh serves as the last line of defense for Lake Tahoe, as the water from the Upper Truckee River prepares to flow into the lake. The marshy area acts as a natural filter, but also as a habitat for birds and other wildlife and aquatic creatures.
On the North Shore, Scott likes to visit Lake Forest Beach in Tahoe City, where an abundance of willows provide shelter for birds living there and passing through during migration.
He suggests spending some time examining the willow branches for birds and has an impressive list of species he has spotted there, including some rarities such as American redstart, Bullock's oriole and black-throated sparrow.
Before we dive headlong into fall, there is a celebration of summer coming up in South Lake Tahoe at Lake Tahoe Community College. Lisa Berry, self-taught wildflower enthusiast, is presenting her yearly Wildflower Slideshow on September 30, 7-8:30 p.m. Admission is free and will be in the LTCC Aspen/Board Room — check tinsweb.org for details as the date draws near.
Lisa's interest in wildflowers started fifteen years ago with one guidebook that she'd bought to identify the beautiful, interesting flowers she'd see while hiking in the Tahoe Basin.
After reading that guidebook cover to cover several times, and taking pictures of her own to help with identification, her obsession with wildflowers grew, as did her library of guidebooks.
She also became interested in taking better photographs of the blooms to aid identification later, which blossomed into a love of macro photography, capturing details down to the grains of pollen on the legs of insects.
Currently she is diving into a certain stage of floral development, called dehiscence which is when the anthers are just starting to release the pollen. She has gotten so deeply into learning about this stage, that she has noticed that pollen comes not only in different colors, but also different forms, which she is highlighting in her slideshow.
The images she has captured of flowers, the visiting pollinators, the insects that prey on the pollinators and the pollen itself are truly spectacular.
She offers prints for sale as well as various photo gifts so arrive early for the presentation at the end of this month to see her work and to meet author (and botanist) of Tahoe's Spectacular Wildflower Gardens, Julie Carville.
Toree Warfield is an avid nature lover, and writes this column to teach and stimulate interest in the marvels that surround us. Visit saveourplanetearth.com to read columns and to find links to bird song recordings, additional photos and other content.