Science tells us autumn began in the northern hemisphere at 4:02 p.m. Sept. 22.
The transition from summer to fall is marked by the autumn equinox, the day in which there is exactly 12 hours of daylight, 12 hours of darkness.
While the science is undoubtedly correct, anecdotally fall didn’t begin until the past week.
A quick check of weather records shows the temperature in Carbondale was a “crisp” 92 degrees for the autumn equinox. Trees were still loaded with supple green leaves and hummingbirds buzzed lazily around feeders throughout the region.
The “actual” change of seasons occurred sometime last week.
Temperatures dipped into the 40s during the overnight hours. Storm windows were secured and furnaces turned on. The slow process of leaves turning from green to shades of red, ochre, purple, yellow and brown accelerated.
Pelicans, on their southward migration to the Gulf Coast, appeared at Crab Orchard and Rend lakes. American coots, one of the true harbingers of approaching winter, magically appeared one morning. (Coots, like many birds, tend to migrate at night.)
But, the events of the past week indicate that the calendar has caught up with the scientific season.
The back roads of Southern Illinois, specifically, Saline County are vibrant with color, bright yellows being the dominant feature. Puffballs the size of grapefruits appeared on the forest floor.
The extended melodic song of the white-throated sparrow can be heard in brushy areas at the edge of the forest. Northern harriers soar over crew cut fields that held drying corn and soybean crops just 10 days ago.
And, flocks of snow geese have made their first appearance.
Sure, the calendar told us fall began six weeks ago, but this week it got real.
On Twitter: @LesWinkeler