I saw the first white crowned sparrow at my feeders two days ago, and it's appearing all the time now. Winter is coming.
It's been interesting to see who's visiting the feeders during these days of natural plenty. (I put up a few feeders - mainly mixed seed and a suet cake - on September 20, along with water in the birdbath.)
A large family of cardinals, the young males looking patchy and as gawky as adolescents of all species tend to do, was among the first visitors, and they've been regulars ever since.
Blue jays. A couple house sparrows. A pair of red-bellied woodpeckers.
Today I saw a male hairy woodpecker.
And I've briefly seen a house wren flitting around the deck, although I can't say that it was drawn in to the feeders.
Few visitors yet, but I know that traffic will pick up as the season gets harsher.
Overhead, I thrill to the sight of crisp white gulls swooping silently south against crystal blue skies. (Do the gulls only fly on clear days? Or do they just disappear into the clouds and become invisible? They are so quiet that it's impossible for me to hear their passage; I just have to be lucky enough to look up at the right time, attracted perhaps by a bit of sparkle or movement in the sky.)
I hear killdeer cry as they wend their way southward, one here, one there....
The barred owls are becoming vocal in the late afternoon and evening again.
The sunflowers have shed their bright fall plumage and are industriously plumping up their rich, life producing seed heads. Dotted gayfeather blooms have faded from bright purple to dusty lavendar, melding back into the textured prairie tapestry. Heath aster is blooming, but its tiny white blossoms almost seem like a foreshadowing of snow and winter's quiet.
Unobstrusively speaking of winter too, the trees are beginning to shed their leaves. It's not a pretty leaf-drop this year. The drought is forcing it a little early, and the leaves tend to be brown and shrivelled. As I look across the landscape, the remaining stubbornly green trees are the only major remnants of summer left, despite our still-warm temperatures.
However, the big bluestem is turning rusty, the Indian grass is golden yellow, the seedheads of the switchgrass are airily puffed out, and all of their slender stems sway gracefully in the wind, outlined against the rich blue autumn sky. The remnants of prairie are especially beautiful right now, despite the dry weather.
It's fall, that bitterly sweet time of year.