My early evening walk took me through a nice stand of sugar maples. The sunlight made all the orange and yellow leaves come alive in a burst of autumn splendor. My timing was perfect to see the forest floor under a blanket of new-fallen leaves. A light breeze all day had caused the ground to be covered with fallen maple leaves, and they were as brilliant yellow/orange as those still on the tree. Tomorrow the fallen leaves will dry, and their beautiful fall colors will fade to brown and beige.
As I looked up through the falling leaves, I noticed a flock of birds moving just above the treetops. Their familiar, cheery songs told me they were robins and they were flocking together on their migration south. I guessed there were around 200 robins that passed over my head, making the maple grove seem even more enchanting.
At the edge of the woods, I paused to get a more personal look at a patch of New England asters. That's when I heard a slight rustling the leaves at my feet. I knelt down slowly for a closer look and saw a little Red-bellied snake, slithering through the dry leaves.
I'm happy to have seen several small snakes around here this fall. Frogs too, seem to be holding their own in my valley, but I noticed there were not as many toads here this year. It's a good sign to see all these animals doing well. I wish it were as good everywhere.
Several four-inch tall Inky cap mushrooms are standing in the grass in the front yard. They are white with black gills and look quite "prim and proper," standing all together in the short green grass. This is the best time to search for mushrooms with a pocket field guide and a camera. There are many poisonous mushrooms, yet others are very tasty. Still other species are edible but not so tasty, like the inky caps. It can be tricky to discern the dangerous mushrooms from the delicious ones, and some types are seriously poisonous, so it's very important to learn to identify them and be certain before trying to pick any for eating. My motto is, "when in doubt, throw it out! (or leave it be)" Even if you're not sure about them for eating, it's fun to "hunt mushrooms," just to look for all the different kinds of fungi you can find on a walk along leaf-covered trails this time of year.
Monday it was back to summer, as the temperature rose to the mid 80s. A hot, sunny day really makes the leaves turn colors quickly. If it rains tonight, and there's a good chance it will, the dry leaves will come down in a day, exposing the bare limbs of the maples.
The old opossum that was living under the woodpile has moved on, and a rather large woodchuck has taken up residence. Rarely do either of them give me any problems, so I simply enjoy watching these furry neighbors.
From the porch this morning, I watched a little Ruby-throated hummingbird as he searched for nectar in the Salvia and the Canna lilies. There are still lots of flower blooming, enough to keep a hummingbird happy. There are also a lot of small insects for them to eat. I can't remember the exact date I last saw a hummer in the fall, but I know I've seen them stick around on into mid-October.
The swallows and swifts have left on their journey to the Gulf coast. They are just a couple of the summer birds I won't see for 6 or 7 months. I always miss them when they are gone, and I'll wait patiently for them to return in the spring.
Last night's frost was the second hard frost to come to this valley. Time to say goodbye to many of the flowers that were holding on. Again, it's sad to see the Zinnia and Sunflowers fade to brown after the frost. I wait while they grown all summer to enjoy their beauty, and "ole Jack Frost" takes their colors away in a single night. Still, the dried flower stalks are good for the hungry migrating birds. Birds will dine on seeds in the flower heads until they're all gone by December.
It's an autumn wonderland both day and night. The big, full Hunter's moon is like a huge beacon over the landscape. There's no problem taking a walk after dark, because the bright moon will show the way. There's nothing quite like a walk in the moonlight. I've heard there are people who even set their alarm clocks just so they can take a late-night walk when the moon is full.
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