The falling leaves of autumn always bring a bittersweet sadness to my heart. As they gently drift down around me, they ask, did you see us this summer-did you see our green splendor. The leaves always make me reflect on summer's passing and how good it really was.
The falling leaves unlock some of Nature's secrets as they leave behind bare branches. On the branches are now the exposed nests of the birds. Nests that have been hidden in thick, green, leafy foliage for months are now visible for all to see. High up on the very outer branch of the big cottonwood tree dangles the nest of an oriole. About the size of a baseball, it hangs like a gray sack woven by plant fibers and pieces of string or plastic. The lone nest, hangs from the tree like the last piece of fruit. There are several robin nests that I didn't know were there until the leaves fell. One of them was in the lilac bush that I walked by several times a day but didn't see it there. Other nests were in the branches of the apple tree and in the crotch of the willow tree near the creek. When I got to looking around I discovered seven robin nests in the yard.
In a thicket of prickly ash were the nests of a blue jay and a catbird. Under the bridge that crosses over the creek are the vacant, mud nests of the bank swallows, all lined up like apartments for rent but with no one to rent them. In the barn, the nests of the barn swallows and a phoebe still have down clinging to them. A reminder that it will all happen again next summer.
At the end of the asparagus bed, stands a nice mock orange bush. Most of its yellow-green leaves had fallen and a few chickadees were using the branches to peck open their sunflower seeds. I was working nearby and they would talk to me as they lit in the bush. When I looked up to watch them, I noticed an unusual bump on one of the pencil-sized branches. It was my luck day. I had discovered the nest of the hummingbird. To find one is rare indeed and it's always by chance. If I were to go looking for such a tiny nest, I doubt I would ever find one but I have found a few by just being in the right place at the right time.
The little hummingbird nest was about the size of a half dollar and the inside no larger than a quarter. Hard to believe two little birds were raised in such a little-bitty place. It was woven together with plant down and held firm with spider-webs. To help conceal its presence, it is covered with tiny flakes of green lichen. The hummingbirds are all gone now but it's nice to be reminded of them in such a special way. I may never have found the nest if it weren't for the chickadees.
For the first time since "leaf out", back in May, have I been able to see the large stick nest of the Red-tailed hawks. Soon, when the rest of the oak leaves are gone, the hawk's nest will stick out like a sore thumb in the skyline.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been seeing snapping turtles crossing the roads. It's a sign that the weather soon will get colder and that's not good if you're a reptile. The turtles are moving from the river to the small ponds and backwaters. Here they will find a nice place to bury themselves in the mud and sleep until spring.
Each day brings new changes and new discoveries and often the answers to too many questions.
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