Field Notes: What’s in the Woods Today?

by Lisa Deaton, VDOF Area Forester

It’s Deer Time!

Last week I walked around a forested property to prepare a Stewardship Plan for a private landowner.  It felt like I had entered the kingdom of deer.  With new food sources ripening every day and the excitement of mating season, the white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, are on the move.  Many people are familiar with the sight of buck rubs on small trees and woody shrubs, but bucks will also lick low-hanging branches until there are no leaves left.   licking stick 2

They also scrape patches of soil to mark their territory with scent. buck scrape from deers direction.jpg

Strawberry bush, Euonymos americanus, sometimes referred to as deer candy, is fruiting.  It looks a little bit like someone has hung party decorations in the woods; but as brightly colored as it is, it can be easy to miss.

Persimmons, Diospyros virginiana, are ripe as well.  You may notice that one persimmon tree is loaded with fruit, while others bear none.  This is because persimmon trees are dioecious. That means there are female trees and male trees. persimmons zoom

I also encountered a flock of about 20 black vultures, Coragyps atratus, roosting in a large white oak tree near a creek.  The noise of them taking flight caught me off guard and I was only able to catch a photo of these two buzzards. two buzzards.jpg

I went back a few days later to see if I could photograph the vultures roosting in the oak tree, but they were on the side of the highway consuming a deer carcass.  It was deer time for them, too!

Virginia Fall Foliage Report: UPDATE (Weekend of Nov. 11)

Each week during the fall foliage season VDOF shares information about leaf color around the state. Tree color is influenced by precipitation and temperature, so there could be big differences in color and peaks from one region to another and from year to year. Below is our report for the weekend of Nov. 11 More information is available here.

Although winter is fast approaching the higher mountains, most areas below 3000 feet are still sporting a subdued autumn color palette, interspersed with the evergreen of pines.  If you want to see the best fall foliage in Virginia this week, plan a trip to the Piedmont or Coastal Plain.  Across central and eastern Virginia, all the shades of yellow predominate.  Oaks, which have been slow to change this year, still vary from mostly green to fully colored in deep red or rust.  Maples, sumacs, and dogwoods are eye-catching in red, and hickories in clear gold.  An eastern species to notice now is the sweetgum, with each tree wearing a patchwork coat of yellow, red, orange, purple and green star-shaped leaves.

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