A thick blanket of gray fog hovered over the river Sunday morning, reaching the tops of the willows. Out of this mist I watched a pair of Bald eagles rise. The magnificent birds had been fishing along the winding river, and their great wings now lifted them out into the morning light, up the river valley. Their snow-white heads clashed against the dark green foliage that covers these Kickapoo mountains. With my binoculars, I spotted a foot-long fish in the talons of one of the birds before they flew out of sight.
I wondered if they were taking the fish to a hungry fledgeling somewhere. The young eagles have been able to fly for several weeks now, but are still not strong enough fliers to catch their own food.
The sky grew sunny later that morning, and I leaned over my drawing table, visions of Bald eagles in my mind's eye. My attention was soon drawn to high-pitched chattering at the bird feeder next to me on the windowsill. I turned my head to see a young cowbird being fed by its mother. The mother was a song sparrow about half the hungry youngster's size. She stuffed bird seed into the noisy cowbird's mouth, but he didn't seem to be satisfied. Finally, Mother song sparrow flew off with her adopted child close behind her.
This was the fourth young cowbird I've seen in the past two weeks at the feeders. About a week ago, a female cardinal was feeding a fledgling cowbird some seed, and the next day a male English sparrow did his best to feed his hungry adopted youngster. Yesterday morning, I watched a female Rose-breasted grosbeak crack open sunflower seeds and feed them to her waiting cowbird kid. The young cowbirds never seem to get enough to eat, and are very persistent. They follow their adopted parents wherever they go, noisily begging as they fly.
Today was rather cool, compared to some of the weather we've had lately. It was 80 degrees, with blue skies and marshmallow clouds, so I decided to take an afternoon walk. I followed the path through the tall grass along the creek. As I approached a grove of box elder trees, a little wren scolded me. She thought I was too close to her house, so I softly told her that I was just passing by, not to worry.
The path led to an open area of about three acres, covered with the soft, lavender flowertops of Joe-pie weed. Every few yards, there was a group of tall sunflowers, Cup-plants. This was one of nature's beautiful flower gardens, and a good place to watch butterflies. I walked slowly, stopping every few feet to watch a different kind of butterfly. You never know when you'll get a chance like this, so I took my time and enjoyed the sights.
Yellow and black Swallowtail butterflies danced on the flower tops, as Fritillaries and Viceroys fluttered by. Skippers, Hairstreaks, Sulphurs, and a few Monarchs joined the feeding frenzy. Everywhere I looked, there seemed to be flying flowers. The air was abuzz with the wings of bumble bees and honey bees, and a few large dragonflies cruised over the flower tops. If I had spent the afternoon at the drawing table, I wouldn't have enjoyed this wonderful sight.
Not ten yards to my left, a startled white-tailed doe stood up from her bed in the tall milkweed. She used all her senses to take me in, facing me with eyes open wide, flaring nostrils, and large ears standing high above her head. We both just stood there, looking into each other's eyes for a few seconds. Then, with a flash of her white tail, she bounded across the flower meadow and into a willow thicket. I see deer here all the time, but I never tire of seeing them—especially when we come face to face like we did today.
In this part of the country and many northern spots, mid August is the time for summer's fruit and seeds to ripen, a time of nature's harvest. It will continue here until the first frost claims the season in mid-September. Enjoy summer what it lasts!
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