If you believe that the summer ends with the start of September, this was the week to make your case. The temperatures were in the mid 90s on the last day of August; it was hot and humid. Then came a few days of rain, and the temperature fell to the mid 60s on Labor Day. It sure feels like the seasons are changing.
Many of the summer birds who were coming to the feeders left this week. There are still a few Rose-breasted grosbeaks, but most of them have left. Many of the cardinals are gone, too, along with the wrens, catbirds, Indigo buntings and Chipping sparrows. This is one sign of autumn I donít look forward to. It will be eight to nine months before I see so many summer birds again.
Fridayís heavy rain came with high wind that laid some of the cornfields flat and made the tall wild sunflowers fall to the ground. The day before the storm was the last day I saw butterflies. One day they were in every flower garden, and the next day they were gone. Most of them were looking pretty worn out by the end of August, and they didnít survive the heavy rains. Like the summer birds, the butterflies have had their time in the sun and finished what they came here for.
It was cool and damp at sunup Monday morning. It sure felt like fall. For the first time all summer, I shut the doors and windows and started a small fire in the wood stove to take the chill off. The dampness always seems to linger inside the house, even after the sun is up. It comes with living in the valley. Iím more comfortable outside in the sun than inside where itís chilly.
Many of the swallows have left their summer homes near the river. It was a pretty good season for the swallows, and they raised many young in their mud nests under the bridges that cross the Kickapoo River. These are Cliff swallows, and when it comes to catching flying insects, they are pure poetry in motion. Their cousins, the Barn swallows, build their nests in the barn or machine sheds. When they fly, you can see clearly the long, pointed fork tail that identifies them as Barn swallows. I donít see the once abundant Tree swallows here very often anymore. They are the swallows that prefer an open grassland habitat, and are yet another important bird that is disappearing because of the lack of grasslands. There are too many pine trees being planted instead of a good diverse habitat for wildlife.
Several people have told me theyíve seen Cedar waxwings, and Iíve noticed a few flocks too. The waxwingsí nesting season is over, and they are gathering in mixed family groups. They are very communal and can be seen in flocks of 10 to 50 or more any time during the year except the nesting season.
I thought the late frost last spring had killed the apple blossoms, and I didnít expect to see any apples this fall. When you have an apple tree in the valley, you donít always expect to get apples because of the frequent chance of frost. Iíve had apples on a small tree near the house for five years in a row, more than ever this year. I think itís because the spring frost season ends earlier.
The temperature here will drop into the 30s tonight for the first time since last May. There could be frost on the grass in the morning. Thatís early compared to the past five years when the first frost didnít appear until late September or early October. For many years I always looked for the first frost around the 15th of September, and it was fairly consistent. These days, ya never know when the temperature might drop.
Just now I saw the first Yellow swallowtail butterfly Iíd seen since the storm. I couldnít believe how faded, tattered and raggedy he looked as he perched on a pretty zinnia. Iím thinking this could be his last day. As he fluttered off, I thanked him and all his kind for blessing me with their beautiful presences this summer.
The morning glories are spectacular this year, and the hummingbirds really appreciate them. If there isnít a frost tonight, I expect to see a few hummingbirds in the morning. Some of the morning glories have grown up around the tall red salvia, and the purple and red together is striking. The hummers like both of them.
On a dead branch in a box elder tree, a small fresh oyster mushroom appeared. Iíll keep any eye out for more because they are very good (fried lightly) in Organic Valley Butter.
The little snapping turtle that I stopped for today was right in the middle of the road and moving too slowly to have much of a chance of making it across. He was crossing Main Street in downtown Viola, and I didnít like the odds of him surviving. If a car doesnít hit him, heíll probably catch the ever-searching eye of a hungry crow or jay.
He was about the size of a silver dollar in the palm of my hand, and I wished him luck as I placed him in the still waterís edge of the River.
I hope everyone enjoyed the summer and you all are reaping the rewards of the harvest.
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