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THROUGH THE WOODS: Farewell Indian Summer

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FALL IS MY FAVORITE time of year, and this year has been a treat with the extended warm weather. Today it was cooling off though and only 49F on my porch with the birds hungry for suet and sunflower seeds. The sky was cloudy for a while and rain threatened with only a few drops materializing. Around the yard there are scattered leaves and brownish shed pine needles in contrast to the golden larch tree needles. My yard and house can’t be seen from the road and sit atop a hill, so I let nature take care of the leaves.

The wind always blows the lighter material down into the woods. Because of the dry leaves these areas are no longer quiet. A squirrel ran through sounding like a large dog on the loose. A little while later a doe and her nearly grown fawn arrived sounding like a herd of elephants. Mom and offspring have their more gray-brown winter coats of hair and are nice and fat. They wander through the woods and eventually get to my beautiful green leach field, where the grass is most succulent. They know my house is quiet and threat free, so they pretty much ignore me.

A few insects were flying around, and some flowers are still in bloom. A pansy and some small yellow marigolds are cheerfully holding on, nestled in a protective bed of greenery. I sat on the porch for a while and did a double take as some poor, confused spring peeper started calling. I hope it gets down into the mud soon. I felt like pretending that this little frog was correct. I wish spring was near.

Gray squirrel. Photo by Nancy Jane Kern

Every year I get more tired of the cold and snow. I know it is coming but Mother Nature should get confused along with the peeper. It would be nice to just skip over the dark, cold winter and welcome back the sun a few months sooner. So I just soaked in what warmth there was and enjoyed the moment.

The air felt damp and smelled of clean earth and leaves. Something was scratching up leaves in front of the porch, so I slowly peered over the rail to see a gorgeous fox sparrow flinging back leaves and foraging for insects or worms beneath. They are one of our largest sparrows and come down from the north and stop by for a meal as they head south. Their rusty red back, tail and breast stripes give it its name. They are always a welcome find, and I was honored that it had chosen my yard.

The white-throated sparrows were there too, and one was calling its spring call of “Sam Peabody, Peabody…” A black-capped chickadee answered with its clear whistled mating call of Feee-beee. I felt we were all on the same page, full of misplaced hope for more lovely warm weather. Oh, if it were only true. I went for a short ride down the drive and near the edge of the woods. Here I spooked a flock of feeding dark-eyed juncos, our winter birds. The wood ducks have left the small ponds. I haven’t seen any for weeks, so they have already moved south. On my way back to the garage I noted the still abundant greenery. It was now dark and time to go in. I was very thankful for such a lovely time outside, even if I must admit it cannot last.

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