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. 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.
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.
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.
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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