Rainy Days of October

moon phase Week of 10/24/2010 Best days to can fruit & vegetables

It was a little colder than usual this morning, and I was a little late to see the sunrise, but I walked off down the valley anyway. A cloud of Red-winged Blackbirds A cloud of Red-winged Blackbirds I knew the sun had peaked the horizon already because the treetops on the ridge to the west were bright with sunlight. I could see my breath plainly and the ground was covered with thick, white frost. A couple of crows called out and the dark figure of a red-tailed hawk glided across the valley in front of me. A nice flock of Red-winged blackbirds gathered in a picked cornfield searching through the frost for bits of grain and weed seeds. They all flushed in a flash of black wings and chatter. The bright red shoulder patches of the males are a beautiful sight when seen all together. A sprawling Oak tree A sprawling Oak tree Thanks to modern photography, Iím able to count how many adult males there were compared to females and juveniles. As the Red-winged blackbirds slowly but surely disappear from the Kickapoo Valley, I find myself spending much more time watching them.  Without a drastic change to restore their favorite habitat, itís not likely Iíll see their huge flocks again in my lifetime.

The sunís rays hadnít found the large spread oak at the end of the pasture but it stood out regardless. This tree has spent its whole life growing out in the open and her long limbs reach out in every direction. A morning Sun Dog A morning Sun Dog The same kind of tree growing in the woods may be tall and straight with two thirds of the tree being trunk because they must compete with other trees for the precious sunlight. It was the oak treeís huge, dark limbs and yellow-green leaves that caught my eyeóthe clash of colors was beautiful.

 The sun had already been up for about ten minutes as I reached where the valley opens. Already the sky was blue to the east and laced with white clouds. Thatís when I saw something I usually donít see at sunup.  Directly above the eastern horizon was a very large sun dog. Bald Eagle soaring Bald Eagle soaring A bright, beautiful splash of yellow-orange color just after sunupómaybe the nicest one Iíve ever seen. I may have missed the sunrise, but I didnít miss the following act.

The full moon was spectacular on Friday night and beamed bright white over the valley. The long needed rain came Saturday and Sundayómostly a light drizzle, but it helped settle the dust on the gravel roads.  The heavy overcast skies hid the moon from view but it warmed up and that saves on firewood.

Bald Eagle in flight Bald Eagle in flight The wild birds have eaten a majority of the small red apples on the flowering crab apple tree. The robins probably eat most of the red fruit, but the tree is visited by jays, woodpeckers, cardinals, and finches. They pluck the nutritious apples and leave the stems on the branch. The bright red clumps of berries on the High-bush cranberry bush have hardly been touched and once frozen they give off a very bad aroma. They wonít be eaten until they dry in early spring. A male cardinal searched the branches of the cranberry bush for insects who are attracted to the fermented berries.

Bald Eagle waiting for prey Bald Eagle waiting for prey There are four eagles hanging out around the trout stream down the road. Could be a family with an adult male and female and two juvenile eagles in tow. Itís nice to be able to see them each day as they soar gracefully over the house or perch high in a tree near the stream. The osprey I saw on Thursday was just passing through as he drifted by high over the meadow. He drew the attention of a pair of Red-tailed hawks who promptly chased him out of the valley. Cardinal on Flowering Crab Tree Cardinal on Flowering Crab Tree Iím hoping the osprey will stick around near the river during these few days of rain. As a rule, birds of prey kind of settle in when the weather gets rainy. Itís a time for them to hunt for food and rest up for the remainder of the long journey south.

 I put some cracked corn out for the birds for the first time on Sunday. I like to wait for the cold to come when most of the insects are gone before putting out corn. Song Sparrow Song Sparrow The chipmunks will gather up most of it and the Blue jays will get more than their share, but other birds like the small Song sparrows and Juncos will appreciate it, too.

With each passing day, the landscape takes on more of a winter look as the remaining leaves fall to the ground. Time to think about settling in and slowing down.

Naturally yours,


All art ©2013 Organic Valley

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sharon from from new jersey on December 8, 2010 at 10:29:45 AM
Dan, that picture of the cardinal is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The cardinal is one of my favorite birds. I always enjoy your articles and pictures. thanks for sharing
Ella from from St.Louis MO on November 1, 2010 at 10:23:27 AM
Now I know what a sun dog is!What causes this to appear?Thanks for the wonderful pictures and information!
Carol from from N. California on October 28, 2010 at 12:52:16 PM
When we moved to a small town in 1951 there were lots of the red-wings. They had a yellow rim around the red. They slowly disappeared, and we haven't seen one in over 20 years. All we get are Brewers blackbirds, and they're nasty. In the winter we get chickadees and the hummers stay around our place all year. We get goldfinches in the spring. They leave for the summer and then are around again for a while in the fall. We've even had a cardinal, but that was probably someone's escaped cage bird.
Nayda from from Mount Hope, NY on October 27, 2010 at 02:45:28 PM
I truly enjoy reading your columns and actually admire the way you express yourself about mother nature. Sometimes we overlook these precious gifts. I have learned quite a bit about all these in your delightful writings. Your writings are an inspiration. Thank you so very much!!
Marcia from from Brooklyn, New York on October 27, 2010 at 01:55:15 PM
Dan I really appreciate that you share in the treasure of nature with so many others. It's always so refreshing to see the photos and read the articles/clips in Down Nature's Trail. Thanks for sharing.
Linda Marie Bruce from from Point Roberts, WA on October 27, 2010 at 01:49:08 PM
Love, love your beautifully written article! It is comforting. Thank you!
Kat from from Canyon Lake, Tx on October 27, 2010 at 01:07:05 PM
I sure do enjoy reading your column every week. I visited up your way a few years ago and the weather was great in October. It's nice to know which birds are leaving your area so I can watch for them down here. Thank you for being there.
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