It’s not fall yet – but Mother Nature sure is dropping a lot of hints . . .
Yellowing leaves already tinge the walnut trees in the valley. Boxelders and elms and cottonwoods also are following the walnuts’ lead and beginning the change from green to yellow. Virginia creepers paint tree trunks with splotches of red.
Although the butterfly milkweed began blooming in June, and some ripe seed pods have burst open to spread their seed on silky parachutes, the plants still seem ablaze with clusters of orange blossoms. Bumblebees home in on the nectar-rich flowers, intent on a meal to stoke up for leaner seasons.
A flock of bluebirds – we lose count at 15! – stages a pool party around our bird bath. During the nesting season, the beautiful birds seem more subdued, hanging around their nest boxes in small family groups. But now – perhaps in anticipation of a short migration to slightly warmer climes – they frolic and sing and chatter sociably. Brief squabbles develop as they vie for spaces in the shallow bath – but the disputes don’t last long.
The hummingbirds, on the other hand, constantly dive and buzz and argue over who gets the first drink at the sugar-water feeder. A dozen of the little speedsters swarm around the birds’ version of a soup kitchen. And when it comes time for us to fill the feeder, they often hover at arm’s length, impatient for another free lunch.
Freeloading orioles have returned, as well. They’d vanished after a spring onslaught – perhaps to a more secluded area to raise a family? – but August brought them back in force, as the adults show the young where to find that delicious grape jelly.
August is a time to watch the roadsides extra carefully, as still-spotted fawns venture out on their own, without Mama to show them to look both ways before crossing. They must learn quickly, or risk becoming a statistic.
Wild turkeys may pose traffic hazards, too – especially in the morning when they seek out country roads as a place to escape a drenching from the dew in the fields and underbrush. But when they’re hungry, the turkeys usually retreat to hayfields or grassy areas, where insect hunting is the best.
And we humans? Enjoy it while we can!
Float the river. Listen to the katydids. Wake up at dawn to see the fog marching up the valley. Keep an eye out for migrating shorebirds and warblers. Laugh at the juvenile cackling and chortling of the barred owls at dusk. Savor the garden’s bounty of tomatoes and green beans and zucchini.
The ancient cycle continues. Heed the clues.