Our entry into autumn has vascillated between extreme heat and humidity; drought; perfect crisp sunny days; torrential rains; and dipping temperatures. Some avian species appear to be gathering in protective groups, fattening up for the long migration ahead. Mockingbirds flutter, fly from tree to tree. Flickers flitter from treetops to the ground, seeking insects. Days become shorter, as nights are now cooler; leaf edges are tinged with yellow and red. A large hawk circles overhead, fingertips turned up.
The apples on my tree are numerous and ripening, a delicacy for rabbits and squirrels, which carry them to the tall Norway maple to eat in peace!
We watch a family of nine kildeers at the local cemetery over the span of a few weeks, in all types of weather. On a day of oppressive heat, they remain in the skimpy shade of a bushy little tree. Some are alert, heads bobbing, some flat down, resting on the sere grass. They appear so delicate, with their tall slim legs, but withstand these extremes with finesse.
On a perfect day, one runs across the road in front of us, alerting us to others which are running, foraging, taking low, short flights: curious kildeers high-stepping it on sloped hillsides. On a rainy day, they seem invigorated, running fast, yanking up fat worms with abandon. Recently, all nine are close, resting, immobile in the grass. Suddenly they all take off together, a flock flying high over tall trees by the river. They bank and turn en masse, a wave of silver in the late afternoon sun, then fly off into the distance, perhaps to return next year! Time will tell if we caught the last sighting until spring.
At the Mount Auburn Cemetery, all is lush, but quiet, nary a bird in sight, and just a few humans with binoculars or cameras. At Auburn Lake, I do a double take, as I see a huge raccoon at the bank.The water level is so low, the animal can meander along on firm ground. It proceeds to dig and dig, strolling on to a new area to dig some more, nonplussed by people nearby.
The tail is ringed, the fur fluffy, and when it turns to look at me, the tips of the ears are white, and the intense eyes are surrounded by that telltale mask, which may function to reduce glare at night.
Further down, there is a flurry of activity at a sweet bay tree, its orange colored fruit attracting a variety of species: robins, mockingbirds, Baltimore orioles, and a lone dove. The water is a bright green, and a haze of heat encircles the pond. At an ancient family grave, a stand of wild grass is lit up by the sun, creating the appearance of an abstract work of art.
At the riverwalk near the watch factory, a large swan, partially obscured by leaves, preens vigorously near the edge, its reflection in the water making it look even more massive. Its lush white feathers shimmer in the sun. On this dry, hot, sunny day, geese and ducks also preen on a dock.
Another day, droplets of new rain create circles on the river. A lone gull preens peacefully on a railing overlooking the scene. A swan family of three, on its way upriver, passes close to a Great blue heron standing stock still, fishing, against a backdrop of orange and burnt umber at the water’s edge. Suddenly, we hear the large male swan take off, fly a few feet above the water in a long straight line, the loud wingbeats on water echoing that flight mirrored in the glassy water.
A cormorant shows off its mighty beak rimmed in golden yellow, preens on a cornerstone next to the walking path, on this quiet dun day, with little foot traffic. It spreads its wings in a M pattern to dry off, as it has inadequate oils for its feathers to shed water, after diving and swimming to catch fish.
At the public dock, Canada geese rest on pavement, as mallards on the dock tuck their heads under wings to sleep. Unexpectedly, a weasel darts across the dock area into the brush, its pale, skinny, long body and tail rushing to solitary obscurity once more.