Indian summer has come to the Kickapoo Valley, and nature is responding in many ways. This already beautiful area is now framed in the glorious warm colors of autumn. Green is now turning to yellows, oranges and reds that set strikingly against the bright blue sky.
As I walk through the dry brown grass along the creek, inhaling the crisp morning air, I listen for any sounds that might remind me of August. The quiet gives me some anxiety. It passes when I near the creek, and its babbling sound soothes my longing for summer.
I can accept the fact that I will have to wait until spring to hear the songs of summer birds like the wren, robin, towhee, whippoorwill, and phoebe. Gone too are the constant sounds of the crickets, katydids and cicada; the silence is a shock to my ears. However, there are new sounds to hear: as a large flock of red-winged blackbirds passes overhead and lands in the tall, dry corn, they chirp excitedly to each other. Last month, when the cornfield was dark green, they would have been difficult to see; against the yellowed plants they stand out.
I hear the rush from a thousand wings as the blackbirds rise together and are gone. In the relative quiet now, my ears pick out crow caws, and the calls of four sandhill cranes in the distance.
The pink morning sky turns bright yellow as the sun peeks up from the east. Steam rises from everything the sun touches. I feel there's a chance for a beautiful day - as I do every time I watch the sun rise. It's a special time to be outside, no matter what time of year.
A trio of turkey vultures rise to lofty heights on the warm morning thermals. The sun surely feels good on their featherless heads. Soon the cold nights will be too much for them, and they will ride a favorable wind further south.
On the Mississippi River above LaCrosse, a large flock of Great White Peilicans bask in the sun. They have stopped to rest on their migration south. Each spring and fall they make this stop on their journey. It gives me the opportunity to see these beautiful birds of the northern prairies.
A friend told me the other day she had seen a large white bird flying south with a flock of sandhill cranes. She thought it might be one of the rare whooping cranes being reintroduced here in Wisconsin. I was lucky to see one about 25 years ago in Colorado, and my memory of it remains.
By noon on this Indian summer day, the temperature has risen to a welcome 70 degrees, and the sun is alone in the blue autumn sky. I see a lady bug fly by, followed by many more. In a short while, the air was dotted with the flying creatures. My south-facing house was the perfect place for the lady bugs to gather. There are also plenty of places in the old house for a bug to sneak in. As they gathered on the windows, ceiling and walls, I realized they weren't lady bugs at all. They're Asian beetles, brought by humans to this place that is not their home, and doomed to roam, out of balance with the local ecology.
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