There was a definite chill in the air Monday morning and I wasn’t surprised to see frost on the ground. A bright full moon shone the night before with not a cloud in the sky, so I figured I might see frost the next morning. Here we are in the second week of November and we’ve had only one frost this week. It’s been a very mild autumn. That’s just fine with me; it means I don’t have to feed the ol’ wood stove so often.
Most of the summer birds have left and it will be another seven months before I hear their lovely songs again. It always takes a little time to get used to the quieter surroundings. My ears are always paying attention to the sounds outside and I find myself paying more attention to the sounds of the winter birds now.
Three pretty does came prancing single file into the yard at sun-up. They made their way to the apple tree near the house. The deer know that a few apples drop to the ground each day, so the tree has become one of their routine stops. I usually leave most of the apples on the tree each year because I know how much the deer love them and how much I love seeing them.
The female red-bellied woodpecker may be the most beautiful of all the birds that spend the winter with me. It’s impossible for me to rate which bird is the most beautiful, for they are all uniquely beautiful but some birds have colors that hold your gaze. A female red-bellied woodpecker had found something to peck at—I couldn’t tell what it was. A moment later, a female hairy woodpecker lit nearby. She had just come by to see what all the pecking was about. She is about the same size as her cousin, but lacks the red cap of the red-bellied woodpecker.
The early morning sun was just starting to touch a distant hillside pasture when a single coyote walked slowly into view. The grass was long there—a good place to hunt for meadow voles. About a mile away from me, he walked slowly through the grass with his nose down and his ears up. When he stopped and looked my way I thought it was a good time to leave and let him go on about the business of hunting for his breakfast.
The chirp, chirp of a robin grabbed my attention Wednesday evening. Sure enough, there he was all by himself at the sumac. Robins love sumac berries and eat a lot of them while on migration. I have heard a robin several times this week but this is the first one I’ve actually seen. I’m not surprised to see some late robins passing through. I wonder how many will stay for the winter.
Friday I took a ride along the nearby Mississippi River to enjoy the day and take a few pictures of migrating waterfowl. I soon realized that duck hunting season was in full swing and what ducks I saw were bunched together in large flocks in the middle of this huge expanse of river. Only a few of the wary ducks found refuge in the backwater pools so I didn’t get many pictures of them. As always, the Big Muddy was awe-inspiring. Mere pictures just can’t do the experience justice.
The long bridge that gives access to the river bottoms was home to hundreds of cliff swallows this past summer. Judging by how many of their mud nests are still clinging under the bridge, I would say the swallows had a very successful summer.
A great blue heron stalked through the murky back waters, one of several I saw that day. I thought I might spot a few great American egrets as well, but it seems they all went further south.
A pair of muskrats were busy nibbling at something in the shallows. I can’t even begin to imagine how many muskrats live in the Mississippi River bottoms; it’s where I’d like to be if I were a muskrat.
A handsome black gray squirrel sat on a fence rail and let me take his picture. The squirrels are busy carrying dry leaves for their winter nests and burying nuts before the ground freezes hard.
A couple of sleepy mallard ducks found a nice spot to take a nap. There are a few places along the river that provide refuge for some of the waterfowl. A rafter of turkeys strutted out of the trees and across the mowed grass along a wayside. Wild turkeys are always looking for something to eat, so I wonder what they find that is tasty down in the river valley. I’m sure they are doing just fine. After all, the big river provides for everyone.
The weather man says I might want to get that snow shovel ready in the next few days. Seems a little early yet to think about shoveling snow but I guess thinking has nothing to do with it. I intend to be ready for whatever comes and take it one day at a time.