I got out of bed early this morning and the cool damp air enveloped me immediately. I slipped on a warm robe and began closing some of the windows for the first time since the middle of May. The thermometer read 40 degrees, and I could see my breath, so I talked myself into taking off the morning chill with a small fire in the woodstove.
At dawn a whip-poor-will sings his final song, letting everyone know that night has ended. A brown bat who has been hunting all night for flying insects, flies up under the porch to his daytime sleeping place. The bats are quite hardy and I'll see them around as long as there are insects for them to eat. Some years, depending on how cold it gets, I see them well into November.
Pretty lavender New England asters begin to open their showy petals as the morning sun warms them. In no time the bees begin showing up, to feed and gather pollen from the asters' yellow centers.
Several excited crows call from the pines up the valley. I suspect they've found the hiding place of one of the young Barred owls. The young owls are still learning how to hide during the day, so they can avoid the pesky crows.
I spend part of the early morning searching through the dew-covered leaves of the gourd vines. I count at least 20 Birdhouse gourds large enough to use as bird houses and gifts for friends. It's a great feeling to see the product of your planting. The Red runner beans running up the south side of the house still have some poppy-red blossoms, and their long vines are covered with large 8 to 10" bean pods. They have had a very successful summer and will provide plenty of beans for next spring's planting—plus lots of extras for friends, of course.
The west side of the old shed is covered with Morning glory vines. Large sky-blue flowers cover the vines' dark green leaves. I've waited all summer for their beautiful blooms, which last only a few weeks until the frost takes them. It looks like there will be seed to collect here too—lucky friends!
On the way back to the house I stop and pick a couple of vine-ripened tomatoes for my lunch, as well as a few sprigs of basil and a couple stalks of dill to add some aromatic garden atmosphere to the house. As often as not, my hands are full as I pick a few fresh Zinnias for the table.
There are some birds that are blessed with bold, beautiful colors and an equally beautiful song. The Blue jay was the bold bird I watched this afternoon. I heard his excited calls from inside the house and knew that something was bothering him. I stepped outside to spot him standing on a fence post where the meadow meets the woods. I heard a few chickadees chime in with their alarm calls, so I walked over for a closer look. About 50 feet from the jay, a Sharp-shinned hawk flew out into the open. I got a good look at her before she disappeared into the woods. The hawk was young and relatively small, but already big enough to cause alarm. She is built for strength, speed and agility—the perfect design for catching small birds.
The young Sharpie has all the tools, but lacks the experience to catch a Blue jay, and the jay knew it. An adult Sharpie is another matter; the jay knows to keep a safe distance from the mature, skilled hunters.
There are lots of hawks passing through these days, and I get fair notice of their presence. All the wild birds know when one is around, and are sure to let me know with their alarm calls.
Autumn begins with the Equinox this week, and things are beginning to slow down. The past several days have been cooler, around 75 degrees with sunshine, and nights in the low 60s dropping to around 50 just before sunup. The nightly insect songs are soothing, not as intense as they were two weeks ago. Every year, fall brings Asian ladybugs and deer ticks, plus a possible invasion of Box elder bugs. Some of nature's wonders are less welcome than the falling leaves, and I think that will always be one of the challenges of fall.
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