Perfect summer weather this week. Temperatures in the low 80s, a light breeze, sunshine and lovely star-filled nights made the first week of September a perfect time to be outside. Every day seemed to start with a beautiful sunrise that would inspire anyone who was skeptical of what the day would bring.
It might take a little snapping turtle most of the day to make his way from the pond to the river across the road. Lots of obstacles and challenges through the tall grass rocks and ruts but with an early start he can find his way before sunset. There are a couple of dangers which he must avoid, like falling into a hole or being caught and eaten by a crow or raccoon. There is also a definite danger which he can’t avoid: the road! I helped him across and set him down in the direction he was headed, my first good deed of the day.
A red-tailed hawk perched high in the branches of a tree along the river. The night had been cool and the morning damp, the sun felt good on his breast feathers and he looked around on the ground below for his breakfast. A frog or snake maybe, or a fat mole or mouse, grasshoppers and crickets are also good for breakfast. When the cold finally comes, his diet won’t be as diverse and his food options will be much more limited. For now we both have something in common, we’re both enjoying the view and the morning sun.
From out of this air a tiny hummingbird stopped and hovered in mid-air right in front of me. Satisfied that I wasn’t a pretty flower, he flew to a nearby branch and peered down at me. I’m hoping that I’ll still be seeing hummingbirds a month from now but I can’t expect them to be around much after that.
Some turkeys had spent the night in the branches of some large oak trees in the woods. Greeting the sun, they strut out into a short grass field in search of their breakfast of crickets, grasshoppers and other assorted bugs. I don’t think there is another wild bird that can eat as much in a day as a wild turkey, eating is their favorite pastime from sunrise to sunset.
A sandhill crane doesn’t mind walking through the tall, dew covered marsh grass if it means he’ll find something to eat. He also has a good appetite and will eat a wide variety of insects, amphibians, snakes and small mammals—even baby birds if he comes across them in a nest. If the crane doesn’t find enough to eat he may search along the edge of a shallow pond or stream or maybe turn over dried cow pies with his beak in the pasture, a good place to find crickets and other insects.
The morning sun lights up the shiny red apples that are crowded on the branches of an apple tree. Looks like a bumper crop of apples this year, which will make the deer happy. It’s been a couple of years since there have been so many little crab apples on the crab trees. There should be plenty to eat for the many birds that will cherish the taste of apples next winter.
Took a ride last weekend to pay a visit to my mother down in Milton, Wisconsin. The drive gave me a chance to see how the crops are doing in the south central part of the state. The corn and soy beans are starting to dry around the edges and some of the farmers are busy chopping silage already. I even saw some folks who were harvesting tobacco plants near Edgerton. It’s always hot, hard work in the tobacco fields this time of year and I don’t miss being out there with them, those days are far behind me.
I enjoyed my morning walk early Sunday morning and it started out with a beautiful rose just outside the back door. Ah, the gift of beautiful color and the fragrant perfume of a rose at sunup. The pretty morning-glories unravel their flowers each morning then go into hiding the rest of the day. If you want to see them you have to be outside in the cool of the morning.
A handsome kingfisher perched on a utility line next to a small farm pond not far from my mother’s place. He was watching the still water below for any signs of a minnow or tadpole and didn’t seem to mind me taking his picture. A stately great blue heron stalks through the shallow water of the pond. He is also watching the water for any signs of a minnow, frog or tadpole. The heron moves in slow motion until the time comes to strike—and strike he does, like lightning, to catch his prey. You’ve got to love the intense look on his face, especially those bright yellow eyes that don’t miss a single thing, always alert.
One thing I noticed right away while visiting Mom was the loud buzzing of the cicadas in the tree tops. It’s a sound I haven’t heard this year near home in the Kickapoo Valley of southwestern Wisconsin. Cicada larvae develop underground and develop slowly, taking many years to reach maturity—17 years for three species and 13 years for four others. They may emerge from the soil all at once, which in itself is quite remarkable, then crawl up a tree trunk. A few feet up the trunk the final stage of the cicada emerges, leaving a thin shell of their former selves clinging to the tree bark. The adult cicada will fly on large wings to the upper branches of a tree and hide among the leaves, but their loud buzzing calls give them away. It took me only a minute to pick a handful of dried cicada shells off a single tree trunk, and there were lots more that I couldn’t reach.
Change is a big part of the cicada’s life and because of it they fit perfectly into the natural world around them, making it a better place. We humans are always thinking of changing the world, but not so often of changing ourselves.