A Pair of Sandhill Cranes

moon phase Week of 08/29/2004 Favorable days for planting.

Since I was a boy, I've loved those extra warm summer days, and always made the best of them. When the temperature was over 85, you were likely to find me in the water. Not that I ever needed an excuse to get wet, but it was a great way to cool off. Swimming in a lake or river was best, even after dark. Summer days were made for exploring a grassy pasture creek or wet marsh. For leaping barefoot across a boggy pasture in pursuit of a snake, or wading knee-deep in a small stream, turning over rocks in search of crawfish. Those extra hot summer days and nights are the stuff of many of my fondest memories.

A Pair of Sandhill Cranes

This year, though, the hot weather never came. So far, there has not been a single night that it was uncomfortable to sleep. In fact, four times during August I have started a small fire in the woodstove.

This week has been a strange mixture of fall and summer, and it's a fun challenge to watch these changes in motion. Last Tuesday a light rain and 80 degree temperatures were followed by a warm night and the summer's first insect music. Hard to believe that it's been so quiet here in my valley all season. I was beginning to doubt I would hear the songs of crickets, fleacewings, and katydids this summer, and I was truly grateful when they came. Joining with their own songs were a couple of tree frogs, and a returning pair of whip-poor-wills.

The weather held for the next three days, as 80 degree heat soaked my bones and browned my skin. Each night, the sunset painted the clouds peach and pink, framed a lovely white moon, and the insects came to sing. These were the best three nights of the summer so far. The little brown bats thought so too, and they happily zoomed around in the night sky, picking off the new hatch of flying insects.

Saturday the high temperature dropped back to 70, and that night I added a couple more blankets to the bed. Some signs of fall are obvious, like the autumn colors in the trees, but it seems too early. I still see blackbirds gathered in large flocks each evening, flying to their nighttime roosts. The migration of nighthawks has started two weeks earlier than usual, and the flocks of ducks make me think of early October.

This afternoon the large trees near the house were filled with migrating warblers. Their yellow-green fall plumage made them hard to spot as they scoured the branches for insects. From time to time through the day, small bunches of bluebirds passed through the yard on their way south. Their soft, gentle whistles seemed to say, "So long, seeya next spring!"

Last spring's fawns are 3/4 grown and still show their spots, but the bucks soon will be rubbing the velvet from new antlers. Soon the cool weather will force out their winter coats, and they will change from the cinnamon color of summer to their winter brown.

There are still lots of flowers to enjoy, and little hummingbirds to watch each morning. I'm still hoping that some late warm days will bring a hatch of dragonflies and butterflies. Summer is sliding away, and no one seems to be able to predict what September will bring. Hopefully the warmth will stay for a while, but enjoy it while it lasts!

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