Foliage Report | Color Emerges In Far Northern New England
Yankee Plus Dec 2015
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It’s been a bit rocky on the approach, but it seems that autumn’s official arrival this week will offer optimal conditions to kick-start the colors.
Last week at this time, temperatures climbed into the 90’s across most of New England, rewriting records and stalling any progression that the trees were making towards changing colors. Fortunately though, the tropical air mass was cleared out by a strong cold front that seems to have shifted the prolonged pattern to one of ideal autumn weather.
For the better part of a week now, the air has been cool and dry, and Mother Nature has responded by revealing some of the tell tale signs that the colors are right around the corner.
Clear skies have allowed optimal viewing of the full Harvest Moon, which has brightly illuminated the night skies over New England. Nights are getting longer now, and causing temperatures to reach cooler morning lows. The effect of the moon illuminating the morning mist hanging over fields and waterways has been a stunning treat for those out before dawn.
Additionally, in the skies overhead, the annual migration of broad-winged hawks through New England is peaking this week. Dozens of mountain top hawk-watching observatories operate throughout the fall season, with volunteers keeping track of the number of raptors flying over annually. The most notable observatory atop Pack Monadnock will see kettles of hundreds and streams of thousands of broad-wings for a few days as the entire population moves south in mass before the calendar turns.
And finally, the last wildflowers of the season, the asters, have emerged and are replacing the goldenrod in the fields. These hardy plants with striking purple and white flowers will continue to bloom along roadsides and stone walls well after the first frosts, until the trees begin to fade themselves.
On the foliage front, the colors are progressing steadily now, emerging on a timetable near their historical averages. The lush greens are fading, slowly revealing the colors underneath that have been concealed all summer. Early color is emerging all over Northern New England, with peak colors slated to arrive in many northern areas in the next two to three weeks.
In isolated areas though, the colors will come even earlier. This weekend, leaf peepers looking to get a jump start on the season can travel to far northern areas of Maine and New Hampshire to find colors racing towards peak.
The hills surrounding the town of Pittsburg, NH should hold a significant speckling of color by the weekend, as should parts of the higher elevations in the mountains of Western Maine and in Baxter State Park. The Northeast Kingdom of Vermont won’t be nearing peak for at least another week, but patches of color will be found there as well.
Slightly south, the majority of the White Mountains will show only early color this weekend, but two notable spots should show a bit brighter. The Zealand Valley, deep in the forest near Twin Mountain has a great combination of elevation, topography and abundant wetlands that usually has it peaking right after the switch of the seasons. It requires a hike in, but it rarely disappoints. For easier access to elevation, a trip up Mount Washington either by car or train will bring you through a zone of birches in the sub-alpine zone with beautiful golden colors.
Elsewhere in Northern New England, color remains very low outside of the swamp maples, which continue to put on a good show this year. The forest is generally in good shape though, and a with forecast for more generally cool and dry weather in the week ahead, we could be setting the stage for a nice display in a few weeks.
Before signing off for the week, it is worth noting though that all the spring rainfall, as well as recent rains have come at a bit of a cost. We have been hearing reports of isolated areas of leaf spotting and fungus, prematurely browning leaves in a few areas. This happens to some degree every year, but I think more people are anticipating it this year, and therefore finding the trees that are affected. As of now, we do not expect this to effect the foliage on a broad scale, but it’s possible a few iconic spots may not be as bright as the could be this year. Time will tell.
We also have a fall foliage app for android and iPhone, so you can take our foliage map on the go!
Hopefully we’ll have a lot of color to report on next week, until then, enjoy the first days of the autumn season! And don’t forget to check back on Thursday for the latest New England foliage report.