The frost never came last week, and the gardens got a reprieve. The flowers are still here to serve the birds, bees and butterflies. Itís been a beautiful week here in the Kickapoo Valley, but I feel a change is coming. The birds must feel it, too, because some of them have begun to move through the valley. Thursday, I noticed a flock of about fifty robins perched on power lines just down the road from the house. They have gathered together and are ready to move out any time.
Itís been good migrating weather. The skies have been clear at night, lit by a bright, full moon. The majority of songbirds pass through at night on their migration south. Iíve been keeping my eyes open for songbirds that are in the yard during the day. The little goldfinches have finished nesting and are showing up at the bird feeders with their youngsters. The house finches are also feeding sunflower seeds to their begging fledglings. The yard and gardens are full of different kinds of sunflowers and cone flowers that the finches canít resist. A frost will zap the yellow flower heads and make the tiny black seeds ready for them to eat.
Iím enjoying the hummingbirds while they are here but that wonít be for very much longer if the frost comes. They have been a joy to watch and they always add so much to a summer at home. When I think of all the flowers I planted with them in mind, it reminds me of how important the small are in my life. The little hummers take first prize for being the most uplifting summer bird.
This morning, a little yellow colored warbler lit on a branch near the back porch. As I watched him I noticed several others moving around in the branches above him. I think they are Pine warblers, but Iím not really sure. Fall warblers have always been frustrating for me to identify. Their plumage is nothing like it is in the spring, and they donít sing much in the autumn. They are on the move, though. They sense something in the air and are taking the necessary precautions by moving further south. Warblers are insect eaters and go where they can find them. They band together in large flocks and move through the treetops to many points south. Some may go to South America for the winter.
To me, the little warblers are part of Natureís subtle community, which includes fireflies, butterflies, moths and other inconspicuous beings that are beautiful to see in a quiet and peaceful setting. Many of the 80 species of warblers that summer in North America migrate to northern Central America, Mexico, Cuba and the West Indies to spend the winter. Many others will go even further south.
Today was the first day that the sun was low enough in the sky to shine through the upper part of the window. A small, glass prism hangs there, and, when the sun hits it, throws small white dots over the ceiling and walls. It is a reminder that the days are getting shorter and winter is a whisper in the distance.
There have been several young Rufous-sided towhees hanging around the yard the past couple of weeks. They have learned where the bird feeders are and they like the black sunflower seeds. Iím hoping they stay around through the fall. Iíve enjoyed them all summer and Iíll miss their distinctive song: Drink-your-tea!
Another tiny bird flies from the dead branch of an oak tree. It snaps a bug out of the air, spins around and flies back to the same branch. Itís a Least flycatcher that is hardly bigger than a goldfinch and has grayish feathers. It also makes a living catching insects by ďhawkingĒ them. Patiently waiting for a flying insect to pass by, the flycatcher leaves its perch to grab its prey. When the flying insects are gone after the frost comes, the flycatchers will leave too.
I like the color effect that comes from planting certain flowers together. The lavender phlox shares the same space with some pretty little bush sunflowers. Some pink gladiolas grow among the stalks of bright red salvia. Flowers always complement each other regardless of what color they are. Thereís no such thing as an ugly bouquet of flowers.
Some of the beautiful purple New England asters are starting to bloom. They are about two weeks behind the time they bloomed last year. They are pretty hardy, and an early frost wonít hurt them. A tiny ďbee flyĒ has found something he likes in the pretty, yellow-orange center of a purple aster until a large bumblebee chased him away.
Tiny things can be colorful, especially when they gather in bunches. A cluster of young soldier beetles gather on a milkweed pod. As the days grow shorter, the colors of summer will begin to disappear, so enjoy the beautiful colors of autumn while they last.
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