Nature doesn’t abide by the calendar

Birds are signaling the changing season as clearly as the leaves on the trees and the wildflowers. No longer are they driving others of their kind from territories they’ve chosen to nest in. Nor are they feeding nestlings or even fledglings. Many young birds still follow their parents but they are feeding themselves.

Birds are now conspicuous by their numbers rather than their colors. No longer do I see a family of robins on a lawn, one or two adults followed by two, three or four spot-breasted, stubby-tailed young ones. Now when I see robins they’re in a loose flock, a scattering of many of them on the ground and in the trees of a woods. Red-winged blackbirds are in masses, more numerous than mosquitoes in a marsh at dawn or dusk. Swallows swirl about over fields seemingly as numerous as grasshoppers I flush by walking through the grass and weeds. Or they perch on power lines, often a hundred or more, spaced along the wires almost evenly for a quarter, even half a mile.

Our dogs and our horses are growing longer, thicker fur, their winter coats. Rabbits and squirrels, foxes and coyotes and other wild furry critters are doing the same, I’m sure, though I haven’t tried to catch and handle any to find out. I don’t really need to catch any. I could stop and examine road kills. But that doesn’t appeal to me though I knew a mamalogist who never passed a road kill without stopping unless he was in a hurry. I was riding with him when he stopped his car, got out and examined a dead skunk.

Autumn doesn’t begin on a certain day. It doesn’t begin in one day. If it was to begin on one day it would seem it should be half way between the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and the autumnal equinox. But even that wouldn’t be precise. While fall and the other seasons are prescribed by the length of day, whether the plants appear like it’s a specific season and the animals act like it is determined as much by the weather as by the length of day.

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