I was kind of surprised to see a little brown bat flying around the yard at dusk tonight. It was only 40 degrees—and felt it—but the bat was hungry, and searching for flying insects must have been a tough job. There had been a hard killing frost in the valley the past two nights that pretty much did in all the annual plants in the gardens. But it’s been nice during the day—sunny, sixties—and I did see some flying insects while splitting some fire wood this afternoon, including several butterflies. So I guess that bat knows what he’s doing.
Today my good friend Colette was out in her flower garden digging gladiolas when she heard the soft whistlings of Bluebirds. She counted some 25 pretty Bluebirds daring around in the leafy vines that cover the chimney on the house. She said they seemed to be catching some kind of insects, and it looked like quite a few of them were young birds. How often can you be lucky enough to see so many Bluebirds together? Keep your eyes open—in the fall they migrate in large flocks, and flocks of 50 or 100 are common. Twice I’ve seen a flock of over 300 as they passed by in the open sky. It’s an amazing story, this saving of the Bluebirds. I remember in the early 1970s that when I saw a single Bluebird pass through it was a big deal—a real treat. Colette and her husband, Andy, have added several new Bluebird houses to their country yard and orchards.
There are some new woodpiles all stacked and drying the sun at the far end o the house. I’ll give thanks to the blocks of Box Elder as I put them in the stove, but first they have to be wheel-barrowed up the house. It was a lot of work to cut the trees, split the wood and stack the brush, but there’s still work to do in moving it up to the house. It’s hard work getting the firewood in each year but the rewards outweigh the pain. The Box Elder does a great service to me.
The mornings are frosty but these autumn days have been beautifully warm and sunny. The New England asters that bloom in the meadow are attracting Honeybees in numbers like I haven’t seen in 10 years. I’m thinking that maybe someone has put out some hives within a mile or two from me.
I don’t expect to see butterflies after the temperature gets so cold at night, but each day after the frost melts I still see them. There were several beautiful hardy orange Monarchs passing by in the sunshine today.
Near the tiny frog pond, a grasshopper perches on a blade of grass and is warmed by the sun and the water striders scoot across reflections in the still water. The young water striders are only half as big as their parents and they stick close to them for safety. A young three-inch-long Green frog leaps from the bank and quickly swims to the bottom, but I still take his picture in the murky water. A little Wood frog prefers to stay on his warm rock and doesn’t move as I walk by. It’s nice to see the frogs in October—the frost hasn’t dampened their spirits and they will get every inch out of these warm days as they can.
At night the raccoons come to the edge of the pond and leave their tracks in the mud. A Heron had been standing in the same place during the day and had also left his tracks.
The old school house has lost its summer luster as the green all around it fades from the frost. The weathered old house is no longer hidden by green vines and flowers but fits right in with the autumn landscape. I wondered where the little House wren came from as he hunted for insects near the back porch. He was busy as ever, in true House wren fashion, except he never made a single sound—very unusual for a wren.
A flock of 20 to 30 Myrtle warblers dashed around in the branches of a Crab apple tree. They are migrating through and finding food where they can. Many of the tiny warbler species are hard to identify in the fall; many lose their distinctive summer colors after the breeding season. There are lots and lots of little songbirds on the move now, so keep your eyes and ears open.
The fall season can be one of the best times for birding. Many species of birds move in large flocks of their own kind when they migrate in the spring of fall. These flocks may be much larger and more apparent in the fall because of all the new juvenile birds making their first flights to the South. The young still stay close to their parents, making the flock seem larger. I saw several flocks of Myrtle warblers today and some other warblers traveling with them. Some can be very curious when I squeak my lips—making a mouse sound. One pretty little Nashville warbler landed only a few feet from me and posed for a picture. Or was he a Nashville warbler? Ha.
Lots of Painted turtles sun bathing along the river on these beautiful sunny days. In typical reptile fashion, they stretch their necks and legs and spread their toes to catch all of the sun’s warm energy. The time for the turtle will pass and the turtles will sleep like frogs and snakes until spring.
The Sandhill crane family is doing just fine and they seem to be finding plenty to eat. The kernels of corn they find in the fields will help them build the fat they will need to carry them south and through the winter.
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