Champagne Days

11 Nov


I love the sparkling light of fall and this particular day-windy and partly cloudy-is a study of contrasts. Cumulous clouds are dark above and white on the underside. The lawn is still green and banded with shadows cast by the trees. The tall grasses of the swale wave in the wind, upper parts shining silver with reflected light, while the stems retain the deep green of summer. The low growing plants of the hedge have died back offering a glimpse of tiny white caps cast by the wind on the river. Milkweed pods have split open revealing their gossamer down growing from small seeds. The split pods are striped with sandy shades deepening to grey, softening to blue, and going 3-D to green velvet.

It was a hard summer for the residents of Magazine Beach. The extreme drought drove newly hatched birds and their parents to moister places in search of insects a month or more before their expected fall migration. To my dismay, the three families of normally year-round resident Cedar Waxwings took off in July. My peak count of Red-wing Blackbirds was 30 males. Because the males are not monogamous (2-15 mates) this suggests that the numbers of more elusive females could be 60 or more and the total number including hatchlings could be nearly 200. Normally able to tolerate our weather well into the fall, they took off in July. Baltimore Orioles, Tree Swallows, Warbling Vireos and Eastern Kingbirds followed suit. Even the exceptionally hardy invasive species—House Sparrows and Starling—dwindled from maximum counts of 50 to just a few. Small numbers of warblers from places north began passing thru in August and continue to pass through. The big surprise is goldfinches. These tiny flitters were on display in small numbers all summer but migratory flocks have settled in, at least until the goldenrod supply gives out. I am counting 150 or so when I take the time to wait for the large flocks to show themselves. You can find them in the swale with the tall grasses opposite the middle section of the hedge. Have a look. –Jeanne Strahan

*Look for Jeanne’s fall bird inventory here in the next few weeks.

*Come rake leaves at the park and plant bulbs, too, tomorrow, Saturday, November 12, 9am-12noon.

*Many thanks to the CRLS students who recently did a cleanup of the park and to the Charles River Conservancy for sharing the joys of jumping into leaf piles with Morse preschoolers yesterday.

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