Hold on to your hats—or at least cover your heads—here come the ladybugs! Friday was sunny and 73 degrees, and the hoards of Asian lady beetles we've been expecting finally decided to show up. These little orangish-red rascals are members of a beetle family known as ladybird beetles, and are native to Asia. I was beginning to wonder if they were showing up this year, until now.
The day started with a nice cool morning, with not an insect of any kind in sight. I've been doing some work on the walls and ceiling inside the house and I noticed a few ladybugs around 9 am. I was busy so I kind of forgot about them, but by noon there were about a hundred of them crawling around on my ceiling—the very ceiling I wanted to paint that afternoon. At first I thought of trying to plug as many holes as I could find, but realized it would be a losing battle.
The old one room school house I live in was built in 1864. Trying to find all the holes would be would be like trying to keep a sponge from soaking up water in the rain—I have no choice but to try to live with them. When the cold weather comes and I get the wood stove going, they will slowly disappear.
When I stepped outside just after sunup, my attention was quickly drawn to the frantic scolding calls of many birds. Chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, and Blue jays all gathered in the branches of the thick undergrowth of the woods. I quietly stalked through the fallen leaves, keeping my eye on the spot where the birds were scolding. In a flash, a large blue-gray bird leaped from the ground. I knew right away it was an adult Goshawk. When I was only ten yards away, she decided I was too close, and flew away, leaving a dusting of Blue jay feathers drifting to the ground. It didn't take long to figure out what had happened.
I don't see many Goshawks in the wild—maybe one every other year. They are the largest members of a family of birds known as accipiters. The Gos is about the size of a red-tailed hawk, and is a cousin to the smaller Cooper's hawk and the Kestrel-sized Sharp-shinned hawk. Accipiters were once known to birders as blue-darters. The adults have a beautiful blue-gray plumage and the most intense blood red eyes. They are powerful fliers, with short, round wings and long tails. They dart through the woods as swiftly as a grouse, and can catch most any small bird.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the Goshawk, as I expected to find a Coopers or Sharp-shinned instead. I have observed the same scene playing out many times before, but rarely with a Goshawk as the perpetrator.
It was lucky I remembered to pick the seed heads off the phlox this morning. There was another hard frost last night, and the seeds would surely have popped open this afternoon in the warm sun. I laid the heads out to dry on a piece of cardboard in the sun. Later this afternoon they were ready to plant, so I crunched them open under my foot. The little brown shells give way to a single, tiny, hard black seed. I spread them along the hillside just behind the house, knowing the Hummingbirds and Hawk moths will enjoy them here next year.
These autumn days are just so beautiful! I'd like everyone to see how bright these Kickapoo mountains are in their radiant fall foliage. With the recent frost and sunny warm days, they have reached their season's peak. Soon summer's leaves will be only a memory as they tumble to the ground. I can't wait to do it all again next spring.
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