Numerous varieties of crabapple trees have small colorful apples that cling to the trees, adding interest to fall and winter landscapes. Flocks of cedar waxwings often alight to feast on the apples, and so do lingering flocks of American robins. Ring-necked pheasants, ruffed grouse, blue jays, and at least a dozen other bird species are fond of crabapples. And don't forget deer, red foxes, raccoons and squirrels.

Tundra swans are seen in big V's overhead and we hear their muffled musical whistles — a wonderful sign of autumn. They are coming from their summer range which is mainly north of the Arctic Circle, and they are headed to their wintering range along the Atlantic coast.

Areas exist on the Mississippi River and backwaters near Minneiska, and about 3 miles south of Brownsville, to see hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of migrating tundra swans resting and feeding. These locations, and also on Lake Pepin, are good places to see diving ducks such as lesser scaup, canvasbacks, redheads and buffleheads. People also can spot dozens of bald eagles along the drive south of the Twin Cities to Winona, La Crosse, Wis., and points south along the river. That stretch is one of my favorite drives!

For decades Nov. 19 was the average date for lasting snow cover to appear in the Twin Cities and area. With our now extended autumn creeping into the picture this average might need extending. However, during the third week of November, fresh-cut Christmas trees start to appear on retail lots.

Below are some other observations:

  • Weeping willows and European larches keep showing golden-yellow leaves.
  • A few common dandelions still bloom but on short stems.
  • Avid gardeners cover rows of carrots with straw so fresh carrots can be dug throughout winter when they are needed.
  • Pine siskins, purple finches, gray jays, red-breasted nuthatches and black-capped chickadees commonly appear at bird feeders in northern Minnesota. We in southern Minnesota see the same chickadee species at our feeding stations, plus many dark-eyed juncos, white-breasted nuthatches and about 10 other bird species.

Jim Gilbert has taught and worked as a naturalist for more than 50 years.