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Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | October 7, 2013

Fall’s signature events are happening all at once right now. 


Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | September 25, 2013

Well it’s happening. The clear days and cold nights that are a hallmark of September in the Aspen area have finally appeared following a rainy/snowy start to the month. The cold nights are a cue for the aspen leaves to change from green to yellow. Typically we can count on this change during the last half of September. In 2012 the main color change was around the fifteenth of September and in 2013 it is looking like peak will be the last few days of the month. The comparison photo above shows Red Mountain last year and this year on September 25. Quite a different story.


Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | September 16, 2013

Rain, Rain, Rain..Still in a Drought?

When it rains day after day and stories of floods fill the news many people ask us if the drought is over.  It’s not. Check out the national drought monitor. The accumulated precipitation for 2013 is still well below the 30 year average. 2012 was worse. It takes a long time to catch up.

I took a  look at precipitation data for this monsoon season (July-September) from the Pitkin County Airport.


Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | September 2, 2013

On my way back from Crested Butte this past weekend my gatherer's eyes found a lot of berries to munch on and mushrooms to bring home. I also spotted a few Mormon crickets, Anabrus simplex, which are not high on my gathering list as of yet, though were a valuable food source for many native American people.  


Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | August 26, 2013

What are you seeing out there as we enter September?

Hummingbird moths, aka White-lined sphinx moths Hyles lineata, have been spotted gathering nectar recently around dusk.  This photo was taken recently in Aspen’s West End. These moths, along with hummingbirds, some bats, and hoverflies (which look a lot like bees), developed hovering skills through convergent evolution. 


Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | August 19, 2013

Gaze up Smuggler Mountain toward Hunter Creek near the end of August and you may be surprised to see a patch of aspen trees beginning to turn color. This early turn happens every year, typically about a month ahead of most other aspens in the valley. Some call this area Early Gulch. I’m not sure of the source of the name, but it makes sense.


Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | August 12, 2013

More Abundance!

Chokecherry, Prunus virginiana are beginning to ripen this week. This picture was taken August 10 on the Rio Grande trail near Aspen. The incredible flower display of late June has transformed into many sweet, yet often astringent (bitter/puckery) berries. Chokecherry attracts birds and mammals that eat the berries then pass the seeds through their digestive tract, depositing the seeds at new sites for germination. Viable seeds can be moved long distances this way.


Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | August 5, 2013

Fireweed, Chamerion angustifolium is yet another wildflower that is blooming in abundance this year. They are in full flower this week and will begin to go to seed in the next couple of weeks.  

A bee getting nectar from a flower like fireweed will fly in low and move up the the flower stalk (raceme), visiting the low blooms first and then the higher ones.  I learned about the advantages of this upward nectar collecting to bees and flowers last week in the ACES pollination class taught by Rocky Mountain Biological Lab researcher Dr. Rick Williams. 



Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | July 29, 2013

What a difference some rain makes! After a July of almost no rain, the Aspen area hit the jackpot Saturday night and Sunday. The first photo photo was taken Friday afternoon and the second on Sunday afternoon from the Rio Grande trail looking up Hunter Creek. Hunter Creek has been well below average flow for the second year in a row. See the graph here


Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | July 22, 2013

You may know how to identify the “flat, friendly, fragrant” fir, but have you seen their cones? Pictured here are maturing subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) cones taken July 18 on Aspen Mountain. Fir cones are rarely seen because after they mature, the scales and seeds fall apart while high on the tree. This is unlike typical spruce and pine cones that fall off the tree intact. The only time we see fir cones on the ground is when they have been snipped off the tree by squirrels who stash them for winter.