The calendar says fall - is it feeling like fall where you live? This summer was the record warmest across several parts of the country including the Southwest and parts of Florida. Much of the West and Northeast as well as parts of the upper Midwest and Gulf Coast saw temperatures much above average between July and September ( With La Niña conditions predicted to continue well into next year (, how will the plants and animals that you track in Nature's Notebook respond? Your observations are critical to helping understand the impact of these unprecedented climate conditions on the environment - thank you for your role in this important work!

What your data are telling us
Fall colors in maples, oaks and poplars across the US
Hundreds of Nature's Notebook observers across the country are tracking the fall leaf color of plants including maples, oaks, and poplars. On our map below, you can see that while there is a range in the start of fall leaf color in all regions this year.

Invasive shrubs have a leafy advantage
Invasive, non-native shrubs frequently leaf out earlier in the spring and hold onto leaves later in the fall than natives, out-competing native plants and shading the forest floor at times when other species depend on the sunlight. To better understand how this phenomenon of Extended Leaf Phenology in invasive plants plays out at a regional scale, Maynard-Bean and colleagues used data collected by Nature's Notebook participants to document differences in leaf phenology between native and invasive shrubs. The authors found that the leaf period was up to 77 days longer for invasive species compared to natives. Better knowledge of how invasive shrubs negatively impact natives can help stem the purposeful spread of these plants by humans and protect native species and their ecosystems.

Difference in leaf out in native shrub (left) and invasive shrub (right),
Photo: Erynn Maynard-Bean
What's new at Nature's Notebook and USA-NPN
Practice your skills with a new quiz!
We've added a brand new Module to our Nature's Notebook Observer Certification Course! This new Module, Practice Making Observations, guides you through the process of making observations on a deciduous tree. A quiz at the end of the Module tests your new skills. We will add more modules in the coming year, so stay tuned!

23 million records in Nature's Notebook
Thanks to diligent observers like you, we recently crossed the milestone of 23 million phenology records submitted to Nature's Notebook! Thanks to all of your amazing efforts, we have nearly recovered from the dip in records submitted in March and April due to the pandemic lockdowns. We also have a record number of new sites registered this year!

In addition to exploring the data in our Visualization Tool, you can also explore your own data that you have collected by clicking the link on the bottom right of your Observation Deck, Visualize My Data.

Recent happenings in the field of phenology
Milkweed loss is behind monarch decline
New research suggests that the loss of milkweed, rather than migration mortality, is the main cause of monarch population decline. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweeds, as their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants. Your observations of milkweed and other nectar plants as part of the Nectar Connectors campaign are an important way for researchers to understand the changes in resources used by monarchs.

Photo: Gail Bishop
Birds breed earlier, at a cost
Birds that are able to shift breeding timing to keep up with earlier springs may face further challenges, as authors of a new study in PNAS found. Chicks that hatch earlier may be exposed to inclement weather conditions and more at risk of food shortages and mortality. Aerial insectivores such as swallows, swifts, flycatchers, and nightjars, may be most at risk due to unpredictable insect resources during early spring.

Photo: Tom Grey
Nature's Notebook Nuggets
A year of phenophases for a conifer
Nature’s Notebook includes conifer species of three types: those having deciduous needles, those with fascicled needles (the pines), and evergreen conifers having single or clustered needles that are not like a pine's needles and are not deciduous. In this Nugget, we take a quick look at the phenophases that Nature’s Notebook observes within their annual cycle: the seasonal progression of new needles, male pollen cones, and female seed cones.

More ways to get involved
Signs of Fall with Nature's Notebook
Earlier this month, we took part in a SciStarter event focused on how to document signs of fall with Nature's Notebook. Watch the recording to learn about some of the signs of fall that observers across the country are reporting.

Erin Posthumus