Monarch butterfly caterpillars are still chowing down on my backyard milkweed; one more generation of monarchs will soon be heading southwest to Mexico. I hope they fly fast and the cold doesn’t catch them.
The cold is coming, though, whether we want it or not. Many of our summer-time birds (e.g., warblers, flycatchers) have already departed for warmer climes where insects flourish year-round. Nuts and seeds are plentiful here now, and our stalwart resident birds (e.g., chickadees, titmice, cardinals, woodpeckers) are eating as heartily as the migrants do. They’re all preparing for winter.
Winter is my least-favorite season, and fall is its harbinger. I try to adjust my attitude by focusing on birds that shorter days bring south from their northern nesting areas. When will the first dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows scuffle through autumn leaves under our shrubs? When will the first red-breasted nuthatch appear on the suet feeder, joining its white-breasted cousins that stay here all year? And where are the kinglets? They’ve all been reported in our area, but I haven’t seen them yet.
Meanwhile, hawks are sailing down fall-hued mountain ridges. Flocks of grackles jostle and clamor in the woods, flocks of robins and waxwings work on late berries, flocks of starlings fling themselves across the sky. These blue-and-gold days of October are like the wings of some exotic butterfly that flits past, urging the always-changing beauty of every season in nature.