Late Autumn in the Driftless

moon phase Week of 10/28/2012 Good Days For Transplanting.

The final week of October has been as close to normal as itís been in several years. Crow on the Search Crow on the Search We had a couple of cloudy days followed by a rainy day followed by a few sunny days to balance it all out. There really hasnít been one extreme or the other the way late autumn used to be. Iím comfortable with it, I guess. Seems like a good way to slowly break into winter.

The majority of the migrating songbirds have passed through the area, although there are a few small flocks of red-winged blackbirds here and there, and I heard a robin this morning. One of the birds that spends the winter here is the kingfisher.  I often see him perched on a tree branch or power line near the river. The kingfisher is about the size of a blue jay. Its blue-gray back and shoulders slope up to its seemingly extra-large head, which tapers into a long, pointed beak and is crowned by an impressive crest of feathers. Autumn Woods Autumn Woods A band of blue-gray feathers crosses the maleís white breast, while the female has a second rusty band under the gray one. They may spend the winter here and will catch small fish from the Kickapoo River. As long as the river stays ice-free, the kingfisher is able to dive in and catch his dinner.

A dozen crows are doing what crows always do, which is pretty much whatever they want to do. They have found a barred owl that has stirred from its hiding place in the thick pine boughs. The sun has set, so the crows think itís good fun to give the owl a hard time before they leave for their night roost. A dozen crows can make quite a ruckus when it comes to playing owl games.

I admire the late autumn colors as my Sunday night walk takes me up the valley. Catbird Nest Catbird Nest Most of the bright leaves are gone with the exception of a few honeysuckle and wild apple trees that still hold on to their yellow leaves. I love the soft, subtle colors of the valley in late autumn. They lure me to explore further up the trail to where the spruce trees stand tall. I am able to easily spot abandoned nests of summer birds since they are no longer concealed by a blanket of leaves. I see a doveís flimsy nest of sticks in the bare branches of a hazel bush, a cardinalís nest in the branches of a service berry, as well as a robinís nest in the high branches of a wild apple tree. I remember how the catbirds were very excited as I walked by a patch of prickly ash one day early in the summer. Now that the leaves of the prickly ash are gone, the catbird's nest is plain to see. No wonder the pair of catbirds were upset with me.

Crow Feather Crow Feather In the dried needles under a spruce tree lies a single tail feather from a crow. This is always a good place to find feather treasures and owl pellets and occasionally some mushrooms. I see where a Cooperís hawk had plucked the flight feathers from a tufted titmouse it had caught. The tell-tale feathers told the story. A few yards away I find a small, fallen log that was covered by the tiny yellow feathers of a goldfinch. This is called a Ďplucking postí and is used by a sharp-shinned hawk to pluck its meal. I had seen both of these hawks several times over the summer. Looks like they were doing just fine.

My walk takes me out of the spruce trees and along the edge of the prairie grasses where there are still a few lavender asters in bloom because they are sheltered from the bitter cold that has claimed most all of the wild flowers in the valley by now. New England Asters New England Asters It will be another nine months before I see them again, so I pause to smell the pretty flowers one last time. I was surprised when a grasshopper jumped to the ground as I bent over. It could very well be the last of its kind I will see for many months. The cold will see to that.

Walking the patch through the tall prairie grass along the edge of the woods I suddenly hear what sounds like a deer coming through the brush. Standing perfectly still, I watch as a nice buck trots out of the woods and prances down the path in front of me. I got his picture when he stopped on the side of the hill to look back at me, showing little fear. The bucks are in rut now and have only one thing on their minds: Does. Pigeon on a Tin Roof Pigeon on a Tin Roof I encourage everyone to slow down while driving now, especially at night when the deer seem to be constantly on the move as the bucks pursue the does.

Itís a little hard to figure out the single pigeon that has been living in the shed for the past several months. Occasionally a pigeon or two will show up, but they will stay for only a couple of days before leaving. For some reason, this guy likes it here without the company of his own kind. Each morning he flies down to the bird feeders and eats with the other birds. I also see him sunning himself on top of the metal roof of the old shed. I enjoy having him around, but Iíll be surprised if he spends the winter here. At some point heíll probably fly off in search of a mate, and maybe heíll bring her back with him.

Naturally yours

All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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Charles from from Lansing,N.Y. on November 10, 2012 at 08:23:14 PM
Why are wolf hunts being allowed in Wisconsin ? I will research this more on my own.If this the case, then my purchase of any product from Wisconsin will be stopped immediately. This is cruel and unusual punishment in my book.In addition I will spread the word to as many of my friends and family as possible.
Charles L. Scott
VF Chapmon from from Cleburne Texas on November 3, 2012 at 07:12:53 PM
I took a walk with you through all of your pictures and story, thanks for the lovely thoughts of fall.
Ben from from Tybee Island,+GA on October 31, 2012 at 09:27:28 PM
Grat picture of the catbird nest. I love finding nests, especially ones made with hair.
Jan from from TN on October 31, 2012 at 08:40:45 PM
Kind of sad, in a way, to hear of the fate of the titmouse and goldfinch, but such is the law of nature. Raptors have to eat, too. I hope your pigeon stays, or brings a mate. I had a young one years ago in KY, a rescue, if you will. Pidgie would meet my car when I entered the driveway and fly all the way to the house right beside the car, and perch on my shoulder as soon as I got out. He was a corker, very smart. Happy naturing, as winter stills the earth.
Fay from from Louisiana on October 31, 2012 at 06:18:02 PM
Any updates on Pettie? Was wondering if he was still coming for visits.
Glad to see that robins have come to visit for the fall.
Kathleen from from Indianapolis, Indiana on October 31, 2012 at 12:51:25 PM
Another lovely column, Dan! I'm always reminded to look more closely about me when I read your work.

I was lucky enough to see a Barred owl in our yard during a morning snowstorm a few years ago. Several crows noticed the owl, too, and would not let the poor guy/gal sit in peace. One crow even dropped a few twigs on the owl's head. I'll never forget the sight!
Terry from from NJ on October 31, 2012 at 12:35:49 PM
Great read. Glad you guys had no bad weather as we did.
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