Most of these autumn days have been nothing less than downright beautiful. I feel blessed on some of these pleasant, warm days, and I feel the spirit of the season.
The deer play their courting games near the yard at sunset each night. Usually it's the same three does, who are keeping a young fork buck and a very large white-tailed buck with a 10-point rack at bay, at least for now. The big boy is more intent on marking every branch he comes to, rather than watching for danger. He marks his scent with urine on the ground and lower branches, rocks, bushes, fence posts and so on. The spots he misses, he marks with scent glands on the insides of his legs. He sticks his antlered head up into the higher branches, to leave more of his musk from the scent glands on his head. It's fun to watch all the antics he goes through, to help ensure the doe will accept him. She will, of course, but only for ONE day out of the year. So, he stays close to her and follows her, day and night, waiting for that right day to come. It's a tedious process, but as sure as fawns in the spring.
I had several different, interesting bird sightings on Saturday, starting with an early morning Bald Eagle who was perched at the top of a large willow tree along the foggy River bank. Eagles are an impressive sight no matter where you see them, but sometimes they just look like they own the place. At another spot along the Kickapoo River, where the current eddies around a big bend, no less than four Belted Kingfishers were perched in the tree branches over the River. The fishing must be pretty good in that spot to draw such a crowd. I don't remember ever seeing three Kingfishers at one time, let alone four. As a rule, these are solitary birds who are most often seen all alone, watching the water below for a fat, fresh minnow.
I watched a Shrike fly from a thorny plum tree along a brush fence row, down to the ground to pursue a field vole. If he is lucky, and successfully catches the vole, he may then impale his prize onto one of the sharp thorns of the Plum tree, to save his meal for future enjoyment.
The Bluebirds are still passing through the area on their migration south. They seem to like the apple tree in the yard, as I see them there every day. The yellow leaves on the apple tree provide a striking contrast to the Bluebirds' pretty plumage. They remind me that every day is a Bluebird day, as long as they are around.
There were ten fat, feathery turkeys just outside my back door this morning. They were surely stalking around for birdseed—always looking for an easy meal. I startled them when I came out the door, not knowing they were there. Their heads all came up as I said, "Good morning," and they walked off in the opposite direction from where I was going. They'll be back more often as the weather gets colder. The two hard frosts this week probably eliminated a lot of the grasshoppers and crickets that the turkey really like to eat. When the cold comes, there are many wild birds and animals who have to adjust their diets, and the turkeys are no exception.
There isn't as much wildlife activity outside now as there is over the summer, but there is still a lot going on. There's a lot more to see and hear than there will be a month and a half from now, when the big freeze comes.
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