At last, the crickets are chirping their nightly songs. The glorious chorus of the crickets is the music that I wait all year for. I remember the night of last October when temperatures dropped to below 20 degrees, ending the cricket songs. I knew at that moment I would have to wait over nine months to hear it again. For years, the cricket chorus would arrive around the first or second week of July but it seems to come later each year. This year it was pretty quiet in the valley until the third week of August. I love it when this little valley comes alive each night with the collective songs of the insects.
The recent warm weather has been timely for the dragonflies, who appear in the meadow on fast-fluttering clear wings. They are taking advantage of the abundance of small, mosquito-sized flying insects. A dragonfly has no trouble darting through the air and catching a small bug. There are a good number of large dragonflies in the yard each day, but I keep waiting for that big hatch to come, when there will be hundreds of them zooming around in the last sun of the day. It's truly a sight to see, and well worth taking note of each year so that you can look forward to it again the next August.
It's the first day of September, and the signs of autumn are becoming less subtle with each passing day. It's harvest time for area vegetable growers and the produce is coming out of the fields, to bring to markets throughout the region. Some of the apple varieties in the Kickapoo Valley are ready for picking as harvest time gets into full swing. Dairy farmers are busy bringing in the hay they will need to get their livestock through the long winter ahead. Nothing like the smell of fresh cut hay on a hot summer day, and the scent of corn tassels in bloom, not far away.
The Canada geese, who have raised their families in the river valley, are now joining together to form large flocks. It's the first sign that they are anticipating their long migration south in a couple of months
While watching a flock of Red-winged blackbirds along a small cattail marsh, an American bittern drifted by. For me it was an extra treat, as it's rare to get a good look at a bittern. At about 22 inches long, they may look like an oversized Green heron when flying. Seeing him made me think about his much smaller cousin, the Least bittern, who is almost never seen.
It was about this time two years ago, when my good friend Ken Workowski took some pretty nice photos of a bird he had never seen before. I was astonished to see such good shots of a Least bittern. I also thought it strange that Ken found him a mile from the river in a wooded area. The little Robin-sized bittern was probably on migration, and no doubt knows where to find a meal anywhere.
There's so much to be noticed, so keep your chin up and your eyes open, and listen to the voices of summer and—aha!—autumn.
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