It doesn’t seem that long ago when the sweet whistled songs of male Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, and American robins were raining down from treetops everywhere. Not so now. In fact I awoke this morn, Oct. 5th, with a few inches of snow on the ground!
Those broods of Canada geese and species of ducks on Assawa Lake, which were nothing but small and down-covered youngsters a short time ago, are all looking and acting like adults now. The eastern bluebirds that nested inside my birdhouses are less abundant, too. It was enjoyable watching the endless routine of parents feeding the young in my backyard nest boxes. As soon as one parent arrived at a box and slipped inside to feed the nestlings and leave, the other parent would immediately take its place with more food for the noisy and hungry mouths.
For some reason or reasons the yellow-bellied sapsuckers seemed less destructive this past summer. Perhaps it’s because many of their favorite birch trees over the past several seasons have perished due to their relentless girdling activities and are no longer prime food sources, but I imagine it is much more complicated than the mere loss of a few birch trees. Even so, the decline of one species because of the actions of another species often provides bounty for others.
For example, I’ve watched hummingbirds, wasps, and bees and other insects feasting on free meals of sweet birch sap oozing from sapsucker portholes. And every once in awhile I’ve spied opportunistic squirrels licking the sugary liquid, too. But the death of one birch tree often becomes life for another. The space surrounding the stumps and snags have sprouted clumps of young birch saplings, some of which have now attained heights of 20 and more feet tall. Nature, always changing, mending, perpetuating, and adapting, seems to be one step ahead in so many things.
The summer has also ended, once again, with the delightful antics of ruby-throated hummingbirds buzzing my sugar-water feeders. But this year was different. Not since the “hummer summers” I spent looking at the late George Robert’s feeders 25 years ago, have I seen as many of these amazing little birds. I observed at least 17 hummingbirds all at once in their chaotic displays of blurred wings and dive-bombing bodies at all four feeders.
However, twice this summer the hummers disappeared because of week-long vacations away from home and no one to fill the feeders, yet twice they all returned to drink my feeders dry at every turn. Though busy work—cleaning and filling hummer feeders—the feeders are now cleaned, put away, and won’t be out again until May 2019. And so I will wait in anticipation for the return of Becida’s hummingbirds around Mother’s Day weekend like they do every year.
The oak trees surprised me this season, as did all other fruit and nut-bearing trees and shrubs. In late summer I predicted acorn production to be minimal at best around my home, but listening to the nuts fall to the hard-packed, water-starved earth on cloudless days told me something different: it’s not rainfall, but, rather the sound of bounty and much needed seed and feed for future forests and future wildlife.
And now the scent of autumn—of decaying foliage and, at least at this writing, snow—permeates the woodlands with aromatic and wonderfully familiar scents. It seems I hardly knew the summer of 2018, but then again, summers always pass to quickly, don’t they?
Hazelnuts and fruit from chokecherry trees have long since been plucked and consumed by hungry birds, bears, and other critters, or have fallen to the ground, and most songbirds have left us for warmer climates. And though many of our beloved feathered migrants have already disappeared, the endearing black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, and a handful of other year ‘round resident birds, are making frequent stops at our seed feeders and suet balls.
Indeed, it’s all around us, you know, these seasonal changes and sightings. We wait in anticipation for short, three-month-long seasons that all too quickly come and go, only to be replaced by another season—each with its own wonderment and uniqueness—as we get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
Blane likes to hear from his readers. Email him your favorite outdoors experiences and wildlife encounters at firstname.lastname@example.org.