I love the music of autumn….the tapping of woodpeckers in search of a meal, the rustle of leaves as a squirrel dashes to the safety of a tree, and the crackle of a fire getting started in the wood stove. Along with the music, comes the dance of the season – the shimmer from the afternoon light as it hits the broomsedge in the meadow, the spiraling of colorful leaves as they drop to the ground, and the repetitive back and forth flight of chickadees as they grab seeds at the feeder.
The past month or two have been busy, the dancers moving quickly. Not like the gay and free-form dancing of spring, or the lazy, care-free moves of summer, but a more purposeful, steady dance. A dance of preparation, and for some, their final dance. The cold morning’s this week have slowed the pace for many, transforming their moves for a time until the sun gets higher. The sign on the marquee for this play should read – Wild Temperature Swings Likely.
We are seeing a dramatic shift in the players on the stage in my woods and fields with new arrivals from the north coming in and taking over the lead roles. Recent arrivals include Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets sharing the act with White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.
Even the actors that have been here all along have, in some cases, changed costumes – the American Goldfinches trading in their gaudy yellow of summer for a more subtle shade. And the male Bluebirds are now in a chorus line, flocking up for the winter, instead of their solo performances of a few months ago.
Certain players only come on stage when conditions are right. A lone juvenile Eastern Fence Lizard basks on the bench near the meadow, catching the last few rays of warmth before retiring off-stage. The Question Mark butterfly that I wrote about in the last post finally took flight yesterday in the warm afternoon sun after resting on the same oak branch for three chilly days.
I read this week that, in my favorite theater, Yellowstone, most of the roads have closed for the season. There, the long, slow dance of winter has already begun, the bison swaying their heads to its rhythm. Here, in our milder temperatures, the actors will come and go, move fast and slow, over the next several weeks, until what passes for winter will set in, with occasional intermissions until the arrival of spring.
As the days shorten, be sure to walk and observe, pay attention to the details of the set, and get outside and sway with the dance of the season. Enjoy and applaud the performances. Don’t sit this one out, move with the music and appreciate what the season brings.