It sure doesn't seem like summer is ready to leave us yet. Oh, there are lots of signs that autumn is here, but the weather has been more like July. It's very dry here in the Kickapoo Valley of southwest Wisconsin. There hasn't been any measurable rain for nearly a month. For me that means watering the garden each day. I still do it the old fashioned way, with 5-gallon pails filled and carried from the creek. If I carry ten pails each day, everything gets a good drink every three days. If dry weather comes early in the growing season, it may mean 20 trips each day to the creek, hauling 40 five-gallon pails to the garden. I really can't complain about my physical abilities at my age. I can still do most everything I did at thirty.
Tuesday evening just before sunset, a nice big flock of nighthawks passed overhead, their long pointed wings knifing through the sky as they hunted insects, like the swallows do. Nighthawks are more closely related to Whippoorwills, another bird that makes a living by catching flying insects. They are grouped up for migration, and there are about 80 in this group. In the past, I've seen as many as three hundred, all darting through the air as they gradually move south. The swallows are already gone, and the nighthawks are moving through, but the evening skies are not empty as the little Brown bats take their turn at the flying insects.
The nighttime insect music has been a glorious sound treat this week, making me think it sure sounds like summer. Wednesday night I heard something I haven't heard in this valley in ten years. A pair of Great Horned owls sang to each other from the meadow. I hear the "Who-cooks-for-you?" call of the local Barred owls nearly every day, but the Horned owls usually stay in the river bottoms. The Horned owls, as well as the Barred owls, are not migrants; they spend their winters here. They both are very territorial, not wandering too far from their nesting site. After the nesting season has ended, they may expand their hunting opportunities to other areas. "Who-who-whoo, ho-ho-ho."
Each day seems to be just like the one before: Warm, sunny and dry. Each morning a heavy fog forms in the river bottom, a good place to watch the sunrise. This morning I watched the sun come up through the fog, and it was partially blotted out until it rose above. For just a little while, a heavy dew gives some moisture to the new day, but then it's quickly dried by the morning sun. A large flock of Red-winged blackbirds lands in the tall grass to feed on the seeds the grass provides for them. They too are gathering before making their long journey south. The foggy twilight, together with the lush, green, dew-covered grass and the ghostly blackbirds, make a beautiful combination.
It's a time for summer butterflies and autumn flowers. I saw them both, as a lovely Fritillary was tasting some beautiful New England asters. Flowers and butterflies complement each other no matter where they are, or what time of year it is—they are a double dose of beautiful.
There is still some summer to be savored, so I'm hoping that everyone takes advantage of it. The changing of seasons may be the main reason why some of us enjoy living in the North. By watching the seasonal changes, we can better understand that change is a good thing, and how important it is to accept it in our daily lives. A walk down nature's trail will always give you an easy sense of pleasure. Let the fresh air around you clear your mind and refresh your understanding.
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