In a short-grass hayfield at the edge of the woods, a female turkey was snapping up crickets and grasshoppers. She was flanked on both sides by no less than eleven of her almost-grown children. Shoulder to shoulder they moved through the alfalfa field, heads down, searching for crickets and grasshoppers. These large insects are an important source of protein for both the young and old. The young turkeys get a boost of energy that will help them reach full development before winter. It's time for all birds to start putting on the fat that will help ward off the cold.
The Red fox is leaving scat (droppings) that are full of large insect legs and shells. He is taking advantage of the cricket and grasshopper season as well. Soon the frost will come and the insects will be gone, so we will have to return to catching voles and mice. When the frost comes, the snakes and frogs will go into hiding, making it just that much harder for the fox to find food.
I have noticed there are more Kestrels in the area lately. They perch on a high-line along the roadside and watch the grass below for small prey. Many of these small falcons are migrating through the Coulee area and are first year birds or passage birds. This means they are making their first passage to the south for winter. They are not yet accomplished hunters, so an abundance of large insects makes their lives easier.
A Sandhill crane stalks through the tall grass and head-high sunflowers of the marsh. He caught a couple of Leopard frogs and a small Red-bellied snake after he had snapped up a dozen crickets and grasshoppers. This protein rich diet will give him the energy to make the long flight to the winterizing grounds in the southern United States.
A mother Possum carries eight young passengers as she crosses a log over the creek. I was surprised at how small they were as they clung to her back while she walked along. They were no larger than Chipmunks but still they climbed off Mother's back to search the pasture for crickets. At that size, the young possums sill hide in her pouch for warmth and nourishment. I hope the insects will help the young possums grow fast, because life becomes harder when the frost comes the insects are gone.
The American toads and Leopard frogs have dispersed over the landscape. They too know where to find insect meals. Yesterday I saw several of these frogs while crossing a hayfield, a half mile from the nearest water. You may find a toad almost anywhere these days—even in the basement!
Several people have mentioned that there seem to be more bats at their place. Well, it's because the young bats of the season have taken wing. They quickly learn the skills they need to catch flying insects. The timing is right, and Nature provides an abundance of food for those who need it the most. It truly is "harvest time."
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