Dawn before the storm November sunrise Pamm Cooper photo

Dawn before a November storm


“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

-Albert Camus

November is the time of falling leaves and bare trees, perhaps a first snow, woolly bears and the arrival of northern birds that come down to stay for the winter. Geese fly overhead in their v-formations, remaining autumn fruits are visible on trees and shrubs and the weather is definitely shifting toward the colder end of the spectrum.

wooly bear in November 2018 Pamm Cooper photo

Woolly bears travel late in the year and the amount of rust or black is only indicative of its stage of development, not the severity of the coming winter

Most northern birds that migrate here for the winter typically arrive in late September or early October. This year many stayed in the north until recently as temperatures there remained warmer than usual and food was abundant as well. The first juncos I saw arrived on October 30, but that is just in my area, but it is the latest arrival of that species since I started keeping track of such things.

cowbirds on fall migration Horsebarn Hill UConn

Cowbirds on migration Horsebarn Hill UConn

This past October was one of the warmest on record, and anyone with some annual flowers in their gardens may still have some blooms now in  November. I had Mandevilla vine, Thunbergia, salvias, Cuphea ( bat-faced heather), Mexican heather, Tithonia sunflowers, Cosmos, balloon milkweed, ivy geraniums, fuschias and several more annuals still blooming  on November 5. Native witch hazels and some perennials like Montauk daisies, butterfly weed and some hyssop varieties are also blooming. As of today, though, with temperatures in the low 30’s, most annuals should fade away into the sunset.

fuschia still blooming November 3 2019

Fuschia still blooming on November 3, 2019

Mandevilla vine in bloom November 3 2019

Mandevilla vine still blooming on November 3 2019

geraniums blooming November 2 2019

Geraniums still blooming in Manchester on November 3, 2019

October being so warm, many trees still have some leaves, although oaks, dawn redwood and Bradford pears are the main ones with leaves right now. Some sugar maples slow to turn color this year are fading, but many Japanese maples are still full of colorful leaves.


Sugar maple on left and Japanese maple on right


Old house with bittersweet and a Japanese maple in full autumn color

This is the time of year when it becomes evident where paper wasps built their nests. According to farmers in earlier times, perhaps mostly by experience and observation, the position in height of these nests was an indicator of the amount of snow to come during the winter. The lower the majority of wasp’s nests, the less snow, and vice versa.

paper wasp nest in chute of wood chipper November 2019

Paper wasp nest in the end of a wood chipper chute

There are many plants that are great to use for fall interest. Fothergillas has a wonderful orange-yellow leaf color into November, and Carolina spicebush has a nice yellow color right now. Several viburnums, winterberry, many Kousa varieties and native dogwoods have fruits that are of  interest for fall and even winter color. Red osier dogwoods also have red twigs that are a standout in the winter landscape if pruned periodically.

cranberry viburnum berries

Viburnums can add colorful interest in the landscape for both fall and winter

blueberry fall color

Blueberry fall leaf color

Honey bees and some syrphid flies are still active as long as food sources remain. Witch hazel is valuable as a food resource for many late season pollinators. Also, the American oil beetle, a type of blister beetle, can sometimes be seen crawling over lawns in early November on its way to find a suitable spot to overwinter. Stink bugs and other insects are still out, but soon should be seeking shelter for the winter as temperatures drop. The invasive brown marmorated stink bugs seek shelter indoors, while native species remain outside.

honey bee on Montauk Daisy

Honey bee on a Montauk daisy

syrphid fly on Cosmos November 2019

Syrphid fly visiting Cosmos flower November 2019

Animals like deer and coyotes may sometimes be seen out and about on sunny fall days. Deer will eat crabapples and acorns, as well as smorgasbord items like Arborvitae hedges and other plants that pique their interest and taste buds. Sometimes they will nibble on young crabapple twigs and those of other small trees and shrubs. If this is a problem, consider wrapping lower branches loosely with bird netting or something else breathable for the winter. Squirrels have been known to clip off the flowers of hydrangeas and cart them off to line their nests.

coyote hunting during the day in fall 2019

Coyote hunting for voles and chipmunks along a small brook during the day

When autumn leaves are just a memory, sunrises and sunsets can provide a spectacular display of color during the fall and winter months. Sometimes there will also be a pre-glow red or orange color in the sky that will light up trees and houses just before dusk. The color will only last for minutes and changes can get more brilliant as the sun settles down over the horizon. In the morning, colors are at their peak just before the sun arrives over the horizon.

pre- sunset December glow 12-3-15

Orange glow just before fall sunset

The warm weather is retreating into fond memories, and the cold and bare landscape is coming to stay for a few months. As Clyde Watson wrote in his poem-

“November comes
And November goes,
With the last red berries
And the first white snows…”

Pamm Cooper



A few weeks ago on one of our chillier Sunday mornings, a movement caught my husband’s eye in the woods behind our house.  The animal was a fair distance away, near the base of a cliff, so we got out the binoculars to have a better look.  We were excited to see that it was a coyote and it was clearly pawing and dragging something, which we guessed might be an animal it was eating.  Our curiosity aroused, we hiked out through the snow in the afternoon to have a look around.  It turned out there was a deer carcass up there, a common source of food for coyotes.  Many tracks could be seen forming a well-travelled path toward a possible den at the base of a dead hollow tree not too far from the deer.  Not everyone would share our enthusiasm for having coyotes as near neighbors but they are well established in Connecticut and have adapted well to living in close proximity to people.


Coyotes have not always been in Connecticut.  They have extended their range from the western plains and Midwest since the 1950s to now include areas from Alaska to the Canadian Atlantic provinces and south into Central America and the southeastern United States. 


The typical coyote resembles a small German shepherd.  It is more slender and has yellow eyes.  Coat color may be gray, reddish, or charcoal, with a white or cream colored underside.  Most are darker on the back with a black-tipped tail.  Eastern coyotes are usually 48-60 inches from nose to tail and weigh 30-50 lbs.  Males are typically larger than females.


The coyote’s diet includes mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, deer, some fruits, carrion and sometimes garbage.  Occasionally they will prey on small livestock and pets.


In Connecticut, the coyote breeding season is January to March.  The male & female are monogamous and stay together for several years, rearing the young together.  A litter may have anywhere from 1-12 pups.  The average is 7 in Connecticut.  Pups are born after about 63 days and are weaned after 6-8 weeks.  The young pups disperse and look for new territories in the fall or early winter. 


People may be concerned about the safety of having coyotes nearby.  Attacks on people are very rare but cats and small dogs (under 25 lbs) should be kept inside, especially at night, or on a leash or in a coyote-proof fenced yard.  NEVER feed coyotes and clean up food sources that may be attractive to them such as pet foods, fallen bird seed, and fallen fruit.  Secure garbage and compost in animal-proof containers. 


For more information on coyotes in Connecticut, check out this fact sheet from the CT Department of Environmental Protection.