Thursday, September 08, 2005

Sketches here and there...

I haven't been keeeping up with the nature end of this blog lately, and I apologize. I also apologize for the lack of pictures; I haven't had access to the digital camera from work lately and the extra money to buy one hasn't materialized yet. I have been taking pictures, but they are of the film variety and not developed yet. I'm beginning to really dislike the time lag of film photography, among other aspects of the process. For one thing, if Mr. Attitude opens up the digital camera and pulls out the memory card in broad daylight, there's no harm done.

So in lieu of pictures, some descriptions of what I've been seeing lately:

Asters. They seem to be especially abundant this year. To me, asters symbolize the beginning of autumn, and as such their beauty is bittersweet. We have several varieties around here, ranging from the tiny white-flowered heath asters along the path in the woods and lining the driveway, to the large-leafed asters with their ivory flat-topped clusters of large flowers, to the swamp asters, an explosion of white blooms, to several kinds of purple and blue asters I have not identified yet.

Turning leaves. The birches started early this year, because of the dry summer, and now the maples are following suit with a few scarlet and orange branches beginning to show. Usually dryness means not much color, but they look brilliant to me.

Migrating raptors. I have gotten into the habit of labeling every medium sized raptor I encounter in the woods as a goshawk, but, especially this time of year, perhaps I am wrong. This morning as the kids and I were driving down our gravel road, I saw a burst of large wings from the ground, and had the time to note a mottled brown back and narrow tail banded with one dark row at the end. "Probably a goshawk" I muttered as I made a mental note to consult my field guide as soon as I got to work. "No, Mom," replied Calvin the Naturalist. "It had markings just like a peregrine falcon! I saw the hood on the head!" I have never seen a real peregrine falcon, just pictures. When I got to work, I looked at Peterson's Field Guide, and noted that goshawks most definitely do not have a single dark band on the tail. It could have been an immature sharp-shinned hawk, although it appeared to be a bit bigger. Immature peregrines do have a dark band on the tail, and Calvin has amazed me before with his astute observations.

Fungus. We stopped at the church playground the other day, which is on a beautiful hill surrounded by towering oak trees. On the stump of one of the trees, which had died and was cut about a year ago, on which I remember counting at least eighty annual rings earlier this summer, there was a lush growth of a spongy, white and yellow fungus. It looked like the insulating foam we use to seal up cracks and gaps in the wall. Starflower was fascinated by it, and was probably the only first grader on Tuesday to bring fungus for show and tell.

It is the season of chilly nights, the time to switch from pilsener and hefe weizen to porter and stout, the time to put Greg Brown or Leo Kottke in the CD player and enjoy the warmth of wool socks under my Birkenstocks.

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