The fields of soybeans have turned to several lovely shades of yellow as we head into the second week of September. Some of the sumac leaves are also showing fall colors. Leaf patterns range from green to light green to yellow and orange, orange and red. The autumn sumac is just as colorful as the sugar maples. Add the bright red berries and their color show is pretty hard to beat.
There's still some gorgeous color in my gardens. The rich red salvia stand three feet tall, and I still see hummingbirds at their blossoms each day. The bumble bees and honey bees are working the flowers like there's no tomorrow. They know that soon the frost will come, and their summer feast will be over.
Some of the wild plants like catnip, motherwort, nettles, burdock, bee balm and Queen Anne's lace are in the process of making seed. Other plants are still just flowering. Tall sunflowers and goldenrod can be seen in patches of bright yellow along the roadsides.
These past several days have been unusually warm (90 degrees today) and the insects are having a final surge. On a low branch of a Black cherry tree, a pair of large Cecropia moths fan their wings to dry them. They have just emerged from their cocoons, and soon they will take wing into the night. This is the third time in my life that I have seen a pair of these beautiful five-inch moths together on their first day. They are one of my favorite sights, one I wish were more frequent.
Many birds are passing through these days on their migration. At times the trees in the yard hide fall warblers. There may be several different kinds present, but their fall plumage makes it hard to identify which kinds they are. Rose-breasted grosbeaks and goldfinches are also showing up at the feeders. They will feed for a few hours, then disappear as they continue their long journeys south. The chickadees, who have pretty much been absent all summer, have returned, bringing their happy antics. A true sign that weather has changed up north will be the arrival of the slate-colored juncos. They are the birds of winter and will stay at the feeders until spring. I've been watching for them, but they haven't showed up yet.
At mid-morning an osprey rose high above the river valley on the warm breeze. I'd heard reports of people seeing ospreys this past week, and was glad to get a good look at one myself. They follow the rivers so that they can catch fish while on migration.
Circling above, and keeping a close eye on the large fishing eagle, was a sassy male Coopers hawk. Autumn is the best time of year to see in the Kickapoo Valley, as they migrate through southwest Wisconsin. Many of them are young Redtails, Broadwings, Red-shoulders and Coopers hawks making their first journey south.
I heard the noisy barking of a Gray squirrel, and stepped outside to see what was bothering him. As I emerged, a large, brown, immature Red-tailed hawk flew from her perch on a low branch of the locust tree near the creek. No wonder the squirrel was having such a fit. He kept sending out his vocal alarm for ten minutes after the hawk left.
I watched this morning as a doe and her two half-grown fawns trotted across a dewy meadow. They had been browsing most of the night, and now would find a nice place to bed down for the day. Their coats were changing from summer cinnamon to soft Autumn brown, and the fawns had lost their springtime spots. Their new, warm gourd hairs will protect them from winter's frosty bite.
As the days get shorter and the fall equinox approaches, there's signs of season's change all around. Observe and enjoy—be a part of it!
Naturally yours, Dan Hazlett
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