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Photos: The unofficial dawn of autumn came a little late this year

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The lower trail at Glen O. Jones Lake in Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Area is currently alive with fall colors.

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.

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Fall colors are in full display at Glen O. Jones Lake at Saline County State Fish and Wildlife Area.

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.)

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Snow geese and white-fronted geese arrived in Southern Illinois this week, a sure sign of fall.

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.

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A puffball mushroom, a fall staple, at Glen O. Jones Lake.

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.

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The yellows and reds of fall foliage create light in the woods south of Equality.

Sure, the calendar told us fall began six weeks ago, but this week it got real.

les.winkeler@thesouthern.com

618-351-5088

On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​

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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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