moon phase Week of 10/11/2009 Best Days to Grub Out Weeds, Briars And Other Plant Pests.

It's early autumn and the cornfields are still green, but after tonight that will change. The season's first frost will come tonight, and autumn will take a big bite out of what's left of summer. Bittersweet vine Bittersweet vine I sat outside at twilight tonight and listened to the insects sing their final songs. If the frost is a hard one, most of the singing insects will be gone until next summer. That's far too long to have to wait to hear one of my favorite sounds.

A few clouds hid an almost full moon that gave the edge of the woods and meadow a soft, white glow. It was only 50 degrees but I still could see the silhouettes of several bats as they passed over me. I won't be seeing much of them after tonight. When the insects go, the bats will soon go into hibernation.

Bittersweet is easy to see this time of year Bittersweet is easy to see this time of year On cue, a pair of barred owls began to sing to each other from across the valley. "Who-cooks-for-youuuu, who-cooks-for-you-all!" The owls are year-round residents here and I'm glad they will be around to sing for me through the winter.

I thought about the Delicata squash that I picked today, which are now safe in a wheelbarrow in the shed. A single hummingbird was busy hovering around the tall, red salvia. I hope he knows how cold it will get tonight. The frost will burn the last of all the summer flowers, and there will no longer be a reason for the little hummer to stay. He was probably the last hummingbird I'll see until next May.

Female Goldfinch Female Goldfinch Orange and green have a strange way of complementing each other. I learned years ago that it's very hard to see the color orange in a sea of green. Try to find a bright orange Baltimore oriole in the green leaves of a big tree—it's not easy.

The frost has turned the tall grass brown in the fence line. The vine that grows up the old wooden fencepost is that of the Bittersweet. Now that the green is gone, the Bittersweet's bright orange berries stand out like sore thumbs.

The patch of beautiful blue Stiff gentians in the meadow is now in full bloom. As the grass around them fades, they stand out in a bold blue blanket of beauty, no longer hidden in a sea of green.

Downy Woodpecker Downy Woodpecker The pretty little goldfinches have been in the yard the past couple of days, and in fair numbers. They always come in the fall to dine on the seeds in the flower gardens. I do very little cleanup in the flowerbeds, as the flower seeds attract migrating birds that I may not see if I did clean. The 30-40 finches spend most of the day picking the tiny black seeds from the penny-sized flowerheads of the bush sunflowers.

As I built a small fire in the woodstove, my mind was still on the busy little goldfinches outside. A thud at the window startled me, and I was sure one of the finches had struck the window. I quickly went over to check the feeder under the window, and sure enough, a small, yellow bird lay belly-up in the birdseed. The tiny yellow bird wasn't a goldfinch, but an even smaller, immature Pine warbler. When something like that happens it always turns my mood. There aren't many birds that die because of my windows, but one is too many. In the ten years I've lived here, I can only remember one other time a warbler struck a window.

It's Sunday and another wet day, glad I covered the stack of firewood with a tarp. There is nothing worse than wet firewood on a cool, damp morning. This is the day of the week I spend some time picking up the messes I've made. If I don't do it at least once a week, it gets away from me. During the winter months I spend most of my time in the house, and there is more time for housekeeping. It's October, and much of my time is spent making adjustments for the coming cold weather, inside and out.

The high-pitched calls of the Cedar waxwings make me turn my eyes above. When traveling, they always seem to stay close together, so I was surprised to see a single waxwing eating ripe elderberries. I had just been at the elderberry bush for a free snack, and I guess I'm not the only one who knows a good thing when I see it!

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deb from from brunswick, ny on November 1, 2009 at 01:06:14 PM
Thanks for the touching, insightful and most enjoyable stories and observations of nature. You exactly describe it as if I'm right there with you, walking along. I look forward to seeing, down nature's trails in my inbox- my children enjoy them also.
Cheryl from from home and work on October 16, 2009 at 12:21:59 PM
Dan - Thank you for sharing your nature narratives. The illustrations and photos make me feel like I have joined you on a nature hike! A young nuthatch hit my sunroom window this summer and I initially found him on his back and was sad. When I returned to the walk path a short time after putting my gardening tools down, he was on his feet but dazed. I picked him up with gloved hand and he rested, slept and looked around for the next half hour. He then flew off into my wooded lot. More traumatic was when a hawk chased a wren into the same spot and captured him and flew off. My teen tried to comfort me with a line about predator/prey! Amazing the nature sights in a backyard nature haven.
Karen from from Haverhill Ma on October 16, 2009 at 11:39:36 AM
Your pleasant writing makes me feel like I am right there in the wilderness. You are truly a naturalist and I thank you for your wonderful insight and for sharing with all of us.
Judy from from Louisville, Ohio on October 15, 2009 at 07:18:19 PM
I sure do enjoy your "nature tales" and your pics. We've had a bird or 2 hit our windows too. It's so sad. They're such precious things.We feed them year round. That's a lot of feed but we enjoy them so much and we see new types every year. It's a wonderful hobby! Thanks for sharing with us.
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