Winter migrants return

November 2010
By Patti Muzny

It’s finally fall and the lure of the garden has disappeared with the first frost.  What does one do with a couple of gallons of green peppers?  In a few weeks when they become unrecognizable because furry stuff is thriving on them, I’ll make the decision to recycle them to the compost barrel?

Favorite winter migrants are returning and the resident Cooper’s Hawk is still around to police his favorite feeding grounds.  Some things in nature just never change.  The Grackles have discovered our backyard horse and have been seen checking the ground for tidbits dropped – fresh sweet feed morsels or the aftermath of ingesting the sweet feed!  We’ve also had Yellow-rumped Warblers, Juncos, Chickadees, Song Sparrow, Killdeer and the local Mockingbird, Cardinals and Carolina and Bewick’s Wren.  In early November, my drive to work was enhanced by the appearance of a Great-blue Heron flapping along the intersection of South Shields and 59th Street – not exactly Great-blue habitat!

At our Byars retreat on November 7, we heard our Eastern Phoebe calling around the cabin.  On one of my hikes, I found a pecan tree with at least 6 Eastern Bluebirds that were sending out an alarm of some sort.  They were soon joined by a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, who took up the vigil.  I searched for the source, but didn’t see anything that should cause such a commotion.  The weeds at the edge of the pond provided cover for a tiny garter snake that had not yet found its winter home.

Down along the creek among the tangle of grape vines, poison ivy, hackberry and a pretty little vine with red berries, I located a half-dozen Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a dozen or so Yellow-rumped Warblers and several dozen American Robins.  They seemed to be taking advantage of this year’s bumper crop of fruit.  The persimmons and hackberries are overloaded with fruit and there are lots of “possum” grapes left high in the trees.

In the neighbor’s pasture Brian saw several Black Vultures, a Harrier and Song Sparrows, a Lincoln’s Sparrow, a Red-tailed Hawk and a Mockingbird.  Our Red-shouldered Hawk was heard earlier by Tim.

My fall hikes during the dry weather make sneaking up on a rock impossible!  As I stroll along in the woods, I sound like an elephant in the crunchy leaves.  But it’s amazing what can be found, regardless of the noise.  In between my noisy steps I heard White-throated Sparrows and found some Juncos and a Song Sparrow.  Our son, Tim, saw a Pileated Woodpecker before he and Sam fired up the tractor and chain saw and began clearing some downed timber so my walking trails would be open again.  Not only do I use these trails, but our critters enjoy the tangle-free hikes, too.

A few weeks ago Tim bought a “critter cam” and set it up near the end of our pond.  We left it for three weeks and when we brought it back to see what had come for drink we were amazed!  Three of our white-tailed bucks, some does and one fawn had walked across in front of the camera.  We had a ten-point, an eight-point and a little six-point!  Brian and I had seen the six-point, but didn’t realize we had the big guy.  I’d seen his tracks in the soft soil, but was surprised at his size and excellent physical condition.

As I loaf on our porch, I hear gunshots coming from property to the south of us.  Maybe our antlered wildlife will be back for another photo op soon; maybe not.

It’s fall; it’s cool; I’m not shut in a building, and it’s a great day to be out enjoying the country.  My perfume this afternoon is essence of wood smoke and cooked bacon.  It’s just pretty “Chirpy!  Our utility bills are paid. Sam repaired the hot water heater. Life is good.