Wednesday was kinda rainy but warmer, around 55 degrees. It must have felt a little too warm to one brown bat, who flew around over the yard and garden searching for a meal of flying insects. It has to be tough for a bat to make a living here in late October. I felt a little sorry for him, but I knew he would be OK. He knows a lot more about being a bat than I ever will.
I kind of like these cloudy, drizzly days, as long as there aren't too many of them. Driving along the river road this morning, I couldn't help but notice several large flocks of migrating robins along the roadside. Rainy days are not very good for migration, so many birds wait out the weather in the brushy fence rows along country roads. The little bluebirds were also gathered in flocks along the road, and perching on the high lines. I counted 50 of them, lined up on one particular short stretch of power lines, looking like so many swallows. Unlike swallows, the bluebirds are wary and fly from their wiry perches as I pass by.
At first light each morning, the crows begin their search for food and some interesting, fun things today. They gather in small groups around the countryside after spending the night together in a single large communal roost in woods to the east. When first morning comes, thousands of crows fly off in all directions. I counted about 500 pass over the valley in a half hour. They really don't fly together, but in scattered groups of five or six that follow each other in the same direction. Crows are very social, and love to play and chase each other, not to mention how much they enjoy talking to each other. When it comes to flying together, though, they tend not to rub shoulders unless they have to. If there's a falcon in the area, a flock of crows will move in close together like a flock of Red-winged blackbirds. Each night the crows in their strung-out flight return to their crowded nighttime perch.
Crows are some of my favorite feathered friends, and after a lifetime of watching and listening to them, I can plainly see how beneficial they are to the land. They fit in perfectly, as intended, their only conflicts being with humans. Wisconsin recently adopted a "sport hunting season" on crows. I grew up hunting and it's shaped a great deal of what I've learned and the direction I've gone, but the phrase "sport hunting" never settled right with my spirit. It's time we as a society reexamine the definition of some of these words and phrases, and give more scrutiny to their meanings. What is hunting without compassion and reverence for the life around us?
I'm still busy gathering seed, when the weather permits. There are still some flower seeds I want to collect, but it's best when they are dried out in the sun. It was only misting lightly when I took a pair of scissors out to a bed of phlox and snipped off about 20 stems. Each stem had a large head of seed pods that were near to opening. I want to get some seeds before the sun dries them and quickly scatters the seed. This happens after a rain, and 80% of the seed can hit the ground on a single sunny day. I turn them down into a large paper bag (a bird seed bag) and hang them to the inner edge of the bag with clothespins. I place the bag out of the way, on the same side of the room as the woodstove. As the hulls on the seeds dry, they will snap open and shoot the single black seed to the bottom of the bag. I have plans for another bed of phlox in the spring, so I have to be diligent about collecting some seed. Sometimes it feels good to be on top of things, but sometimes it's not easy.
When the weather gets dreary and wet in the spring, the landscape looks as dead as it will look all year. The trees and shrubs are all sticks and branches. The leaves on the ground have all faded to brown. The light brown grass has been laid flush to the ground by the winter's snow. Things can look pretty bleak and lifeless when the snow first melts in early April, especially on a rainy day. On the other hand, a rainy day in late October is peacefully beautiful. The colorful leaves on the oaks and maple trees seem to glow with color when they are wet.
The fields of tall grasses are separated in blankets of autumn golds, oranges and browns. The ground is quickly being covered by the falling leaves. The shiny wet leaves are as colorful right now as they will ever be; once on the ground they will quickly fade.
I've always thought a walk in the rain in October was one of the best ways to get a good autumn fix. So, don't be afraid to get a little wet. Go for a nice walk in the leaves.
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