Often I've reflected on these beautiful Kickapoo sunrises. There's no better way to start a day than by pausing to take in a beautiful, early morning sky. A sunrise in September or October can be as colorful as any time of the year. There's no better way to be reminded of how wonderful this earth we live on really is. To pause and reflect for a quiet moment may set the tone for your day in a gentle and peaceful way.
I could still see the lavender and yellow sky in my mind as I did the morning dishes, kinda daydreaming I guess. A sharp thud on the window in front of me snapped me out of my dream and on the bird feeder lay a lifeless bird. The first thing I always do is curse the darn window, and then I remember that I'm the one who put it there. I always feel a twinge of guilt when a bird hits one of my windows. This time, the dead bird I held in my hand was a Vireo, a beautiful small bird that I don't see very often in this neck of the woods.
Many of the wildflowers and plants that helped give us a beautiful summer are now in their Autumn splendor. A nice stand of tall brown cattails along the road provided cover and a place for nesting birds like the Red-winged blackbirds, Marsh wrens, and various sparrows. Now the birds are gone, and the cattails will spread their fluffy seeds on the wind after the frost comes. Cattails are becoming more and more scarce, crowded out by an invasive grass called Reed Canary grass.
The large leaves of the Solomon's plume turn from dark green to an autumnal yellow with a clump of colorful orange-red berries at the end of the stem. This plant always looks beautiful in the summer, but it really puts on a show in the fall. Nearby, a patch of short, bright, yellow Zig-zag goldenrod shows us how special yellow can be this time of year. There are many kinds of goldenrod that are in bloom now and some of those that are native to the area are becoming harder to find. Two others are the lovely Showy goldenrod and the Prairie Stiff goldenrod. I will gather some of their seeds when it's time, and plant them where I think they might be happy.
Lots of little songbirds are passing through the Kickapoo Valley on their fall migration. The faint whistling songs of passing bluebirds can be heard each day and the robins have long since left the area. The swallows and swifts are staging in large flocks and will travel together on their journeys south. The Nighthawks are drifting through the valleys of the Coulee region on their way south. They, like the swallows and swifts will hunt for insects as they fly along. This is definitely the time of year to keep your eyes and ears open if you want to see migrating birds. I also recommend spending a little time just sitting outside and listening after dark. You may actually hear the chirps of songbirds as they pass by in the night. No so unusual when you figure that 80% of all the songbirds that migrate do it at night.
The little Phoebes who came so boldly early in the spring are still hanging around the garden and meadow, as long as there are flying insects to catch. When the frost comes, any day now, they will be gone and sadly missed until they return next March.
I've seen the Sandhill crane family lately but haven't been able to get any decent photos. The two young cranes have only taken wing the past few days and their parents now have new flight feathers. Together they now can fly from place to place in search of food and safety. To see them flying together is a gratifying reward after watching them all summer. They will stay around until November before flying south with others of their own kind, and again I will wait for their return in the spring.
A family of turkeys walks single file up the gravel lane, a good place to snap up crickets and grasshoppers. The ten young turkeys are nearly as big as their mother, who has so closely watched over them these past few months. There is no bird that I can think of that puts on more miles walking than do the wild turkeys. They would rather walk than fly. It kinda makes sense. All they need is right at their feet.
At the edge of the grassy meadow a small group of Creamy gentians are turning from snow white to a light brown. Their lovely flowers are going to seed, except for one that came on a little late. It gave me one last chance to enjoy their rare beauty before they are gone.
The smartweed, with its pretty pink flowers, grows along the bank of the stream. It's good to see a color besides green or yellow, and pink is always nice. The tiny blue lobes of the Stiff gentians have waited all summer to appear, and now is their time to be noticed. They may be small, but oh, what a pretty show.
Sometimes I wonder when the Jack in the pulpit is the prettiest—in the spring when it forms is lovely green and purple flower, or in the fall, when its leaves turn dark yellow and a striking clump of red-orange berries appears? I'm thankful for both, actually.
The weather has been considerably cooler, and the sunshine feels extra good for many. The little hummingbirds are still here each day, in spite of the thermometer dropping into the forties some nights. The morning sun must feel very good to them, as well as to the painted turtles, who sun themselves on a river log. I'm still waiting for that first frost that will make everything look like autumn as it takes a big bite out of what remains from summer.
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