WILD GEORGIA: October’s beauty and blue skies beckon us outdoors

Credit: Charles Seabrook

Credit: Charles Seabrook

I love all months, but if I could pick one to stick around the longest, it would be October. It’s one of my two most favorite months of the year, the other being April.

With its bluest of skies and usually near-perfect weather, October is the ideal time to be outdoors — not too hot, not too cold, and with a crispness in the air that boosts one’s spirit and energy.

As the 19th-century novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: “There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.”

The growing season is over, but its ripeness is everywhere — a grand display of the miracle of changing seasons. There is great hoarding and gorging now. Black bears are gorging on acorns, nuts and berries. Chipmunks are storing acorns, seeds and nuts in their burrows. Gray squirrels and blue jays are caching acorns for later retrieval.

Neotropical songbird fall migration to Latin America is winding down, but waves of sparrows and other “winter birds” are coming in to spend the cold season in Georgia.

All over the state, fields, meadows, roadsides and sunny woods are ablaze with color, especially from autumn’s signature wildflowers, goldenrods and asters. Georgia has more than 30 aster species and some 20 goldenrod species. The even bigger show is coming — the fall leaf-color spectacle, which will be well underway by month’s end.

It all is like a magnet drawing us outdoors. You can visit Georgia’s state parks, wildlife management areas and other public natural areas, all of which are open now. The open spaces make it easier to practice COVID-19 prevention guidelines — social distancing, avoiding crowds, and wearing masks.

My wife and I heeded October’s call last weekend and visited Providence Canyon State Park — Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon” — in Stewart County. The canyon soil’s pink, orange, red and purple hues and its amazing sand formations make it one of the most beautiful places in Georgia.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon is in last quarter. Mercury is low in the west at dusk. Venus, low in the east, rises an hour before sunrise and will appear near the moon Wednesday morning. Mars rises in the east at dusk. Jupiter and Saturn are high in the southwest after dark.