The autumn leaves have been on the move over this past week. The warm, wet weather has sent them twirling, sailing and tumbling across the valley. The tree-covered landscape is now 75% leafless and the dark, bare tree trunks and limbs are once again visible. The bright orange, red and yellow leaves of the Sugar maples are lying in blankets of color on the ground. The green-yellow leaves of the Elms and Box elder have long since left their spots on the branches, as have those of the Hickory and Walnut trees. Still clinging to their branches are the leaves of the Red oaks, Cottonwood, and Poplar trees.
The extended warm weather has given a new meaning to the word "mild"—there hasn't been a frost here for over a month. It may have given some of the wild grasses and flowers a little more time to ripen and put out seed.
There have been lots of Robins and Bluebirds passing through the past few days. I'm also seeing some pretty good-sized flocks of Red-winged blackbirds heading south. It's hard to say how far they have come already. No doubt, some spend their summers in the Northern Canadian Prairie provinces.
I haven't had to lay a fire in the woodstove for several days, which is a definite bonus and almost unheard of in the third week of October. Yesterday I saw some Honeybees and there were Asian ladybugs everywhere. The Box elder bugs, too, have been very plentiful, and are trying to find hiding places under the siding of the house. Luckily, not many of them have found their way into the house, since we know how pesky they can be. For many folks, too many ladybugs and Box elder bugs becomes a real buggy problem.
There are still enough flying insects for the little brown bats, who are still out hunting in the evenings. A few Cabbage butterflies and a couple of Monarchs are still around and yesterday I spotted quite a few Dragonflies. To tell the truth, I wasn't expecting to see any more Dragonflies, but somehow it didn't surprise me, the way things are going. Some years, by now, we have already had a measurable snowfall or two. This year I still have some Cosmos and Salvia blooming in the garden, as well as a few hardy Morning glories at the corner of the house.
There has been a Cooper's hawk or two here each day for the past week. I've been lucky enough to see several of them, and a couple times they have lit on a nearby branch, letting me get a good look at them with the binoculars. Most are young hawks, from this year, and are making their first migration south. Not being really skilled hunters yet, they pretty much have to look for small birds all the time as they move south. They are, of course, attracted to the birds at my feeders, and that's the reason I get to see these fast-flying hawks from time to time. When the Bluejays sound their alarm and the little birds all flush at once from the window feeder, I always try to look out the window. I've seen over 30 Coopers and Sharp-shinned hawks this fall that I probably wouldn't have gotten a chance to see if it weren't for the bird feeders.
I'm still seeing a few chipmunks. They are early hibernators who usually don't wait for the real cold to come before packing it in for the winter. Woodchucks are that way too, and it's been a couple of weeks since I've seen one.
It's been a very mild Autumn, and we are slowly but surely moving towards winter. What will winter bring to us this year? It seems impossible to predict what kind of weather is in store, but one thing is for sure: Winter is on its way.
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