The Seasons of the Fox River

By Gary Swick

winter gearPersonally, I love living in a region that has distinct seasons. Walking ankle to waist deep in a stream on a hot summer day is always a refreshing experience, and something my children always loved. On a calm fall day, gliding in a kayak or canoe on the Fox River is incredibly peaceful. When the trees are in full color, I have not met anyone that isn’t awed by seeing their blurred reflection in the river. Having 70 degree temperatures every day of the year may sound wonderful to Midwesterners, but that would prevent the beauty that only winter can bring. When the damaging heavy snowfalls or ice storms appear, I rush to the riverside trail to walk in nature’s glistening gallery, not something you can do in Florida. The spring emergence of woodland wildflowers is short lived, but rivals a visit to a botanic garden. As the saying goes here, if you don’t like the weather today, just wait until tomorrow as it will be different. Those changes bring a revolving palate of beauty to our watershed.

Nature’s Crucial Clock

caterpillarMany things in nature come in fours, like the seasons. Most everyone knows that the beautiful butterfly was once a tiny egg, then a caterpillar, and only emerges as  an adult after the incredible transformation hidden inside a cocoon or chrysalis. Life cycles in the Fox River ecosystem   have been developed and tested for over 4,500 years. In many cases timing is essential. Some plants must bloom in a certain window of time to benefit from sometimes very specific pollinators. Twice in my life, I have witnessed the emergence of the 17-year locust. How can a larva hold out underground for that long and have all of the local population emerge within just a few weeks? Many aquatic insects hatch into adulthood in just a few days. Many of nature’s relationships are a dance, and the seasons are the music.

Adapt, Leave or Die!

Learning to embrace and adapt to surrounding conditions is necessary for physical and emotional survival. Our pioneer ancestors in this watershed arrived here to find a harsh climate, vast prairies full of a great diversity, and a bounty of natural resources like the sweet Fox River. Those that stayed and adapted are considered quite a hardy stock. So too, are the plants and animals that reside here. Surviving summer’s heat, humidity, and drought takes special tools, as does coping with winter’s scarcity, frigid temperatures, and snow cover. The  insects, reptiles, and amphibians have some very interesting strategies for enduring winter conditions. Many bird species tenaciously remain in residence.. The migrators search for food and places to rear their young, rather than escaping conditions like the human snowbirds.

Adapting to Leaf Litter Season

Fox fall colors Here in the Fox River Valley, we are enjoying the transition to autumn.. For some folks, we’re  going from a period of complaining about the heat and humidity, into the long period of complaining about the cold and snow. In the  spring and fall we have floods and tornados that offer conditions really worthy of complaining about. Our watershed’s woodlands will be ablaze with the color change of deciduous trees from green to brown and then bare. Some folks will seize the opportunity to complain about leaf management.

Last year, I offered an article that warned residents not to allow leaves to enter the street’s storm drains. Leaves have many benefits for your yard’s plants and insect inhabitants. They are especially welcome in a garden area; use them there. Research out of the city of Madison, Wisconsin has documented the connection between leaves on the street and phosphorous in receiving waterway. Consider not disposing of leaves  because excess phosphorous is a major threat to the Fox River’s water quality. If your community collects non-bagged leaves from the street, please consider these tips:

  • Stage leaves for pickup on the parkway, not in the street.
  • Only put leaves in the street the day before collection.
  • Do not put leaves in the street if rain is predicted.

The Art of the Fox River

Find the Fox kayak tripThe different environmental conditions that the seasons offer  are reflected by the other inhabitants with whom we share this watershed. The plants offer visual beauty, along with some interesting seed strategies. The birds, butterflies, and other insects come and go making for an always-changing show. The more we pay attention to our surroundings, the more we can appreciate the many gifts that are there to enjoy. Take a ride, hike, or paddle along the Fox in every season to experience the changes.

Seasons for $ale

The theme of this year’s Friends of the Fox River Annual Photo Contest is the “Seasons of the Fox River”. Entries to this free contest are due by Saturday, October 13th. We will be enjoying the winner’s perspectives all next year in the form of the Friends of the Fox River’s 2019 calendar. It was so popular last year, that we are doubling our order. Watch for the sale in November. They make wonderful holiday gifts.