Now, hands up those who didn’t notice that last month’s Get Out! was authored by someone else! A big thank-you and well done to Dennis Vanderspek. My neighbour across the street and his spouse are knowledgeable, avid and observant–as well as lovely neighbours. He also takes damned good photos and they put mine to shame!
But it’s back to me writing this month and I offer full disclosure that I write unrepentantly as a lover of fall. All of those people that smiled at me as they raved about the unusual, warm, sunny weather, I smiled back but inside I was thinking no, it’s totally wrong! And now it appears that we’re back on track. But the trees and birds have no written calendar to guide them through the year. They simply take it as it comes.
This past month has been generous with sights, sounds and smells to make my time outdoors enjoyable. Our beautiful but uncommon woodpecker, the Red-bellied, has been calling more than usual lately. Hearing him or her, I was peering around trying to catch a glimpse when I caught sight of it in amongst the brilliantly coloured leaves of a Virginia Creeper. I believe it was eating the berries but I didn’t have my binoculars close to hand so I can only speculate. These beautiful birds have a couple of very odd calls that make me smile because they don’t sound at all birdlike, much more like a frog.
And speaking of frogs, it’s not at all odd to hear Spring Peepers calling during the warm days of fall. Why they do it is unknown, and oddly they often do it while up in some bush and during the day whereas in the spring it’s usually at night. But along with the Spring Peepers I was very surprised to hear toads calling. At first I told myself it was crickets but then I spoke sharply to myself because it was surely no cricket! But let’s not disparage the call of the cricket though so to hear crickets, frogs and toads was a triple delight!
The birds that brighten our winter are now making themselves obvious again. Chickadees, in their small family groups, are busy calling to each other as they forage for food. And the neat-looking charcoal juncos have now returned from their summer area up north and will spend the winter here. Both of these small, pert species do so much to cheer us during the dark, cold days of winter. Keep your eyes and ears open for their handsome plumage of white, grey and black and for their calls as they hunt for food but at the same time they make sure they know where the other members of their group are.
Blackbirds are migrating and making their spring calls now. This confuses me but makes me realize how much the two seasons are similar and promises me that winter will not last for ever. Here and there a few Black Walnut fruits still hang on branches where the squirrels have yet to get them. They are attractive and look like out of place apples. But woe to whoever would take a bite!
A walk in the forest allows you to enjoy the carpets of leaves that have fallen. The variety of leaves and colours is a pleasure right now. The beech is especially attractive. And I wax nostalgic for what might have been. If you’ve ever walked in a forest in alpine Europe you’ll know the beauty of chestnut trees. Or ask a European friend or neighbour. But unfortunately a generation ago a fungal disease was unwittingly introduced to North America and almost all of our chestnuts died. Oh to still have them! And to eat their delicious nuts roasted! No, don’t start humming that Christmas song about chestnuts, let’s keep that for another month.
If the weather is indeed back on track be ready for some sparkling frosty mornings and with the trees leafless again the birds are easier to see. There are always things to enjoy out of doors. Do yourself a favour and get out! And enjoy!
Get Out! by Glen Spurrell