Muir Woods National Monument
Warm days, gold and crimson foliage, and migratory animals mark the season.
Sonoma chipmunks busily prepare for hibernation. They forage through the woods in search of seeds, nuts, and berries. When their cheek pouches are full, they dig a small hole, empty the food into it, and then cover it with dirt and leaves.
Throughout the season, convergent ladybugs cluster on understory plants. They have flown here in early summer to escape inland heat.
They now gather in dense clusters near the creek, conserving body heat and emitting a foul smelling odor to ward off predators while they rest. In early spring they will wake up, mate, and return inland to lay their eggs.
Fall foliage floats to the canyon floor like rain drops. Poison oak's "leaves of three" are flaming red, the maple leaves change from green to mustard, and the California bay-laurel leaves turn lemon yellow. These colorful leaves are not only a beautiful sight, they also provide nutrients for the forest and its animals. Big-leaf maples nourish black-tailed deer with calcium and potassium. Water striders feed on decomposing leaves in Redwood Creek. Migratory and resident birds fuel up on ripened poison oak, huckleberry fruits, tan oak acorns, and cow parsnip seeds.
October is the end of the dry season when fires are natural occurrence in the forest. Fires release nutrients tied up in the soil, burn weak trees that compete for light in the forest canopy, clear piled up debris in the understory, and kill insects or disease that can potentially harm a forest. Bare mineral soil is necessary for redwood seeds to grow and allows the forest to regenerate with new growth.
Sept-Ladybug cluster; Height of fall color; Warmest time of the year. Oct-Berries, buckeyes, and acorns ripen; Fire season. Nov-Migrating birds active; Rainy season begins.