Birds of “Paradise”

If winter in Wisconsin is as cold as Dante’s 9th circle of Hell where Satan dwells, then summer in Wisconsin must be paradise.

This summer has been particularly lovely, especially if you love hot weather or are from the South like I am. We’ve had lots of rain this year, mostly in the afternoons and evenings, enough to keep me from having to water my plants and vegetable garden too much. All that rain has made the yard and landscape look almost tropical it’s so lush and green.

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View from the end of my driveway of an imminent storm.

Unlike the South, however, we rarely worry about terrible humidity. Our dew points regularly have been in the mid-fifties to low sixties, except for a few days. Warm enough to go barefoot, but cool enough to wear a sweatshirt from time-to-time and sit by a campfire without sweltering and getting eaten up by mosquitoes. That’s paradise!

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One of my favorite things in summer here is to open the windows and let in the warm air, sweet smells, and birdsong of summer. We sleep with our windows open from late spring until about the end of July usually or until it gets too hot. That means we wake to Aldo Leopold’s “dawn chorus” of songbirds claiming their territory. A sweeter sound I can’t imagine. Unfortunately, summer is ending soon. Many of the songs we usually hear have disappeared from our early mornings. Some birds remain, like tree swallows and cedar waxwings. They still visit each afternoon to bathe and drink from the stream and pond behind out house and fill the air with their whistles, pops, and clicks.

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cedar waxwings

But most of the birds have raised their young and are gathering food to ready themselves for the trip back south. The maple tree my hubby saved after a storm packing high winds partially uprooted it is standing upright again, but we no longer hear the baby robin that he put back into its nest high up in that maple. Even the sandhill cranes aren’t trumpeting their prehistoric calls much these days. They are still fiercely protective of their young. Here is a family of three that I saw in the field I pass when I walk my dog. Sorry the photo is a bit grainy, but they are fierce so I kept my distance.

sandhill cranes

Other birds that we regularly see and hear at our stream are indigo buntings, goldfinches, yellow warblers, rose-crested grosbeaks, gray catbirds (usually just outside our window), and just two days ago, a rarely sighted scarlet tanager. I wonder if this fascination with birds is a sign of my getting older. My grandmother and Aunt Marion used to watch birds too. I still remember the rimmed baking pan filled with birdseed they set out on the window unit air conditioner. Watching the birds feed there was my first experience of birds up close. Maybe I’m not getting old; maybe I’m only taking time to notice what I once didn’t take the time to see.

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male indigo bunting

One day I will fly south along with these birds. On the heels of summer I will arrive someplace arm to spend the winter snug in my southern home while Wisconsin lies buried under a white blanket and awaits the colorful birds and warm temperatures that turn an icy landscape into a summer paradise again.

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male scarlet tanager

 

Seasonal Changes Afoot

 

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I’ve been procrastinating. I was supposed to publish this post on Wednesday, but here it is Friday, and I’ve only just now begun to write. I apologize to those of you who look forward to my Wisconsin Wednesday posts. The thing is I don’t want fall to arrive, and I think that if I just ignore what I need to do, time will slow down and give me just a little more summer. That wish is only an illusion, however. Fall is coming, and the past two days have given us a taste here in Wisconsin of the change in temperature that is inevitable. The wheel of the seasons is turning.

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The highs for the past two days have not risen above 70 degrees by day, 50s by night, but that isn’t the only change I’ve noticed. The scent of autumn has arrived here in Wisconsin. It’s a distinct and heady mixture of wild grapes, apples, leaf mold, fresh river water and northern air. When it arrives is different every year, but I smelled it a couple of days ago, right before the rain and drop in temperatures. Seasonal changes are occurring  quickly now, almost as if one change signals many others to begin, both in the natural world and also in my own life.
20150819_152434I talked last time about the disappearance of the songbirds. Yesterday I saw something that signaled the end of summer. Cedar Waxwings are flocking now. They arrive this way in early summer, and they leave this way too, usually with the first few cold fronts of autumn, all together like they are setting off on a road trip, gathering their family members for the long trek. Seeing them leave makes me sad, not only because they are one of my favorite birds but also because I know it will be another year before they return. Here they are gathered along the top branches of the dead tree by the river.

The goldenrod is slowly taking over as the star of the show in fields and meadows here along with a few late blooming Joe Pye Weed.

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My gardens are still going strong, but not for much longer now. The Pinky Winky hydrangeas are changing colors, and the purple Liatris are nearly played out now.

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All around us a gathering is taking place. I’m harvesting the bounty of my garden. The oak tree out front is loaded with acorns, the fields are full of corn waiting for harvest.

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On Monday I go back to school, another sign of fall arriving. Schools have already begun football and soccer games. Cross Country is in full swing. Back to school commercials blare from all radios and TV sets, but I’m not yet ready. I’d like another month to enjoy the warmth of summer, another month to enjoy the birds, butterflies, flowers, and fruits of summer without having to think about AP, SLOs, RTI, and UDL, that horrific alphabet soup of “have to.” Can I get an amen out there? I hope to keep up with my blog all year, but I may have to move my Wisconsin Wednesday posts to Friday and have a This Week in Wisconsin instead. We shall see. Thanks for stopping by to see what’s happening in Wiconsin!

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