Q: Most trees have lost their leaves, but I can see from my window that some trees keep their leaves for a long time. Are they different kinds of trees, or just stubborn?
-- Winnie, Pittsfield A: Three of the commonest trees hereabouts to hold on to their leaves are the oaks, the beech and the Norway maple. Along city streets and in yards the Norway maple keeps its leaves longer than sugar maple for instance, and at this season is an easy way to distinguish this commonly planted alien from our native species. And unfortunately, although once widely planted has been revealed as an invasive alien and there are also individuals that because of sheltered location and growing conditions, among other reasons, keep their leaves longer than others of the same species.
A good rule of thumb is light brown leaves in woodland settings are probably American beech, while darker, more rusty-colored ones belong to the oaks, that in Pittsfield is mostly the red oak.
Q: This morning, as I left my house, I startled a whole bunch of blue jays who came flying out of a hedge of low-slung yews. There must must been at least a dozen -- maybe more -- and I looked closely, but could find no berries or any kind of sustenance for this species.
I have never seen more than two or three blue jays in any one place at a single time.
And this is a species which doesn't gather to migrate south.
So, do you have any idea what they all might have been doing there?
-- Michael, Otis
A: This is a large songbird, compared to the numerous smaller sparrows, warblers, swallows and the like, is among the best known of eastern birds.
The blue jay does not migrate as far south south as do many of our summer birds, but there is some movement and flocking. I liken their movement to being closer to that of many American robins and eastern bluebirds; they, as a species, are now with us throughout the four seasons. Not true for individuals including the jays.
Individuals we see here during the summer may find more hospitable places for the winter and the same is true for those summering to our north or at higher elevations. We tend to see more blue jays during the winter in many places because we offer them reason to congregate -- food.
Nov. 3 about 7 a.m., we had a male ruby-throated hummingbird feeding on what was left of our petunias.
-- Laura, Pittsfield
Last year, I saw one in the area on the feeders on Dec. 2 or 3.
-- Jim, Lanesborough
We've continued to see humming birds in our yard in North Adams (not daily, but I saw one Oct. 29) and so I've left my feeder up thinking that they may be migrating from the north.
-- Marilyn, North Adams
David St. James, my local source for information on such matters suggests:
"On these late records I would not discount the Rufous Hummingbird. In fact, of late, I believe it even more likely."
Questions and comments for Thom Smith: Email Naturewatch@live.com