Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Soon no more snakes in the grass #phenology

Yesterday, mid-afternoon, a small (10 inches or so) garter snake was exploring the front porch. I resisted the urge to capture it, in part because one of the dogs and I were on our way back from a walk when I saw the snake and I didn't like the possible outcomes of going into the house with a snake in one hand and a dog on a leash in the other. This week's shift to cooler weather means it's getting to be time for garter snakes to be headed toward their Winter shelters and hibernacula. There are plenty of rodent burrows in our sand plain soil that should let reptiles get below the frost line for the cold and hungry months ahead of us. Could anticipation of lean times be what brings on our Urge for Going at this time of year?

milkweed seeds awaiting a wind ride
milkweed seeds awaiting a wind ride
Photo by J. Harrington

With today's East wind, it's looking more and more like Autumn rather than late Summer. The cloud-filtered sunlight is shining on the silvery undersides of the aspen leaves. All the milkweed pods have split, spilling their seeds into the arms of the quivering winds. Each day more and more leaves drop from the trees and accumulate along the driveway. October matches April with less than ninety wildflowers blooming. Downy and hairy woodpeckers continue to drink from the hummingbird feeder. We'll leave that up until we start putting out suet. Meanwhile, the red-bellied woodpeckers seem quite satisfied with the sun flower seeds they share with chickadees, nuthatches, and the occasional blue jay. No sign yet of juncos having arrived.

first frosts coming soon?
first frosts coming soon?
Photo by J. Harrington

Song for Autumn


by Mary Oliver


In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.


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