This mild Indian summer weather has been a gift. Gold, red and orange leaves still flicker in the trees. In the morning, deep mushroomy smells come from the woods and afternoons bring a rich, blackberry perfume.
Even the moody clouds have provided an unusual Fall for us no rain so far!
The duck crew still loafs in the water off the yard each morning, waiting for the human to come out and toss corn. As soon as I round the house where they can see me, a soft muttering conversation begins among them and then one by one, they burst from the water and land in the lower yard. Some are so wild that the moment they land they take off again, rethinking their brash move. Eventually they all arrive and dig in.
Ive begun to toss a handful of shelled sunflower seed onto our stone patio. Juncos, hooded like tiny monks, towhees and two bossy Stellers jays take turns with a very industrious Townsends chipmunk. The chipmunk races over the stones, belly almost on the ground, hoovering seed as fast as he can. His cheek pouches look about to burst. Hell have an easy winter, I think. By the way, if you get a chance to look closely at a Stellers jay, note the wonderful vertical blue eyebrows on the black face. Quite stylish.
The pugnacious Annas hummingbirds have relaxed a little since their competitors, the rufous hummers, have headed south. The male Annas sits on the feeder perch surveying his domain. If he had a little comment bubble above his head it would say Mine all mine.
And the Peregrine falcons are back. Look for sleek, dark hunters with a characteristic helmet band on the face. We came upon one on the beach who had just taken down a crow and was beginning his feast, hungrily pulling feathers away from skin. He had neatly removed the crows head, which lay nearby. He wont leave very much behind, and whatever is left will be eaten by others: insects, other carrion eaters such as ravens, even other crows. Its the clean up crew and thats a good thing.
Im taking in the seed feeder every night since the neighborhood bear managed to climb our holly tree, inch out on a branch that was too small and bring the entire thing down, bear and seed feeder included. He then proceeded to bend the metal feeder into an S shape. It was high enough that we needed a ladder to refill it. Now it comes in at night. When I carry it out in the early morning, chickadees sound their two-note alarm call and retreat farther into the shore pine. I hang the feeder and as soon as I move away, the family of chestnut-backed chickadees and two red breasted nuthatches head for breakfast. Nuthatches hunt insects on tree bark head-down, going from high to low, using their sharp bill to pry for food. When they fly to the tube feeder, they land head-down on the mesh, take one seed and fly away. Chickadees also take one seed and fly to another branch where they delicately hold the seed between their tiny feet while they eat it.
So even though its Fall and things seem quieter, theres always something going on in the yard. Just now the varied thrush, looking like an orange-black meadowlark, is skulking just at the edge of the heather. His low, haunting whistle echoes through the shadowy woods.
Its that wonderful, turning-in time of year when there is a soft mist over the water, all the reeds turn golden and the winter birds are returning. Those harvest moons, huge and pale gold, are sailing west over the ocean. Magical. There is something quite reassuring about the predictable, lovely changes of the seasons. Life will throw us curve balls, but for me, if the varied thrush returns and sings deep in the woods, all will be well.