Use your sixth sense in October

Thu, 09/30/2021 - 4:15pm

I have a feeling that October is going to be spectacular. Of course, this feeling is based on a little more than my sixth sense. It has been a wet
summer and there is still dampness in the ground, which is a clue that the color change of the foliage will be strong and brilliant.
October is a favorite Block Island month for many, including me. There is much to admire. The days tend to the cool and crisp. The ocean is still
warm enough for a pleasant swim, and the sunsets can be breathtaking. The quality of daylight has shifted to the more golden part of the spectrum, and the night sky – starting in October – seems both blacker and more glittery as the moisture of summer air is wicked away.
I have long held the thought that October 23 is the most beautiful day in a Block Island year. It is a day that often feels as if all of the outdoors is in
perfect focus. The ideal October 23rd will include an azure ocean edged with gleaming white trim where the waves break and crest. The clouds will be large, billowy and shape-shifting. The landscape will be glowing with shades of copper, salmon, and ochre as the shadbush displays its
subtle colors. It is true that the island doesn’t have the assemblage of hardwood trees that sets the northeast ablaze with color in the fall. But, the
subtle colors of shadbush and chokecherry are made wondrous by the red and russet piping of Virginia creeper and poison ivy vines lacing along miles of gray stone walls.
My love of October is based on past experience and observations and is bolstered by the knowledge of a wet summer. But there is something
more intangible – a sixth sense – that has me anticipating a glorious October. Not only will it be physically beautiful, but I sense that we will all be astonished by nature in some ways. Perhaps the bird migration will be more in quantity and quality. Maybe the fishing will be more rewarding with big fish or an unexpected species. Maybe you’ll enjoy the homey feeling when a cricket (or two) starts chirping in your house, rather than be annoyed. Try to remember that a cricket in the house portends good luck.

If you question the notion of a sixth sense, don’t. It is just a way of knowing that relies on senses that we are not used to naming. We readily accept the knowledge that comes with seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling. And, we are aware that many nonhuman animals use other senses to detect electric current (think sharks and rays), subsonic sound (think elephants), and echolocation (think bats); it is likely that there are many more ways that animals, including humans, sense the space around them. Think of the ways that you have used your sixth sense in nature. Maybe when you’ve decided which fishing spot is hot; or suddenly anticipated a deer leaping in front of you; or taken a crow’s raucous conversation to relay unexpected information; or made a choice about where to look for a roosting barn owl, or even sensed, in advance, the presence of an unforeseen being on a trail walk.

October is the perfect month to embrace and hone your sixth sense. In this year-long series of monthly articles I have taken to heart the truth that each season is not a three-month period but rather a continuum of microseasons (each about five days long) that more specifically express the nuanced and varied nature of any season. Like the season of one’s life, it is the rich assortment and accumulation of discrete flourishing that make the whole being – or the whole season.
Time of oothecas and swallowtail caterpillars:
October 2 – October 6
Many insects, which are cold blooded, are preparing for cool evenings, winter and next year. Monarch butterflies will roost together over night in great numbers on the southeast side of a tree. Praying mantis are exuding their egg cases, called an ootheca, on dried flower stems in fields throughout the island. And, swallowtail caterpillars are eating heartily getting ready to transform their bodies into cocoons. The New Caterpillar Moon will occur on October 6.

Asters abound:
October 7 – October 11
As the goldenrods of September turn into lovely dried arrangements the fields will in turn be adorned by an array of white, blue and purple asters: from small white aster to the dramatic and larger New England aster. The Lowest Clam Tide will be on Oct. 8 at 3:43 p.m. The Draconid Meteor Shower peaks on October 7 and 8. Not overly dramatic, the Draconids are characterized by slow, faint, yellowish shooting stars.
Splashing stripers:
October 12 – October 16

October fishing is great for pelagic species such as false albacore and Atlantic bonito, and the bluefish will stick around through the end of the
month. Striped bass, migrating south after a summer of northward movement, will peak around the island in mid-October.

Season of milkweed pods and drifting seeds:
October 17 – October 21
Many of the island’s native plants are setting and dispersing seeds at this time. Perhaps the loveliest and most enchanting of these is the setting, drying, and splitting of the common milkweed pods, resulting in the release of thousands of seeds held aloft by plumes of down to facilitate
dispersal. The Full Striper Moon will occur at 10:57 a.m. on October 20. The Orionid Meteor Showers peak on Oct. 21.

White-throated sparrows arrive:
October 22 – October 26
Throughout October, shorebirds, songbirds and raptors are migrating and using the island as a critical stop-over spot for rest, refueling, and reorienting to the primary migration path along the east coast. As late October arrives, many of the migrating birds will find their wintering grounds on the island: this is the time to watch for winter wrens, myrtle warblers, and listen for the winter return of white-throated sparrows.

Glowing shadbush
October 27 – October 31
When the shadbush leaves turn golden, when the winterberry shrubs lose their leaves exposing brilliant red berries, and when the low-angled light of the season bathes the landscape in splendor, then the island is truly at its most beautiful. This is the time to use your sixth sense to determine which path to follow on an autumn afternoon.

What does your sixth sense tell you about the upcoming month of October? To share with others your predictions of the unexpected beauty of October, sign up for one of The Nature Conservancy’s many October programs. Go to for the schedule.