Beautiful fall presages winter’s chill

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By Sylvia Brockner

Reprinted from Oct. 11, 2006


This has been a beautiful fall, with the best color being at lower elevations, such as around Evergreen. The aspen in Little Cub Creek Valley have been at their best for a week now, but strong breezes have begun to take their toll.

October has brought some of the warm weather we looked for in September, and we have enjoyed the Indian summer days.

The cold front that moved through on Tuesday evening, Oct. 3, brought a movement of birds from the north, producing some very good birding to those who were out Tuesday afternoon or early Wednesday morning, Oct. 4.

On Tuesday afternoon, I rushed out onto the carport and startled a flock of American robins feeding in our native hawthorn. Within an hour, they had stripped the little tree of every berry and moved on to the junipers below the house.

These were not our summer robins, which I believe have already left this area. They were the lighter-colored gray robins, which often winter the area. These birds are a lovely soft gray, have almost no white on the outer corners of the tail but have more white around the eye. They arrive in the area each year in early October and winter here or a bit farther south.

No one seems to say for sure where they come from, and my husband, Bill, says he has seen these light-colored robins in Alaska, and I have been told they are seen in the Pacific Northwest in summer. Sometime someone should band some of the winter flocks and see where they go when spring comes.

Birds are still moving south in good numbers ahead of the cold fronts, such as the one that was predicted to move through last weekend. Inga Brennan reported a large flock of American robins, blackbirds, grackles and eastern blue days moving through her yard in Genesee Crossing and an adult Rufous hummingbird on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Sherman Wing saw a small flock of eight yellow-rumped warblers in Indian Hills on Thursday, Oct. 5.

Loie Evans reported 11 sandhill cranes flying over her house, headed south on Squaw Pass on Wednesday, Oct. 4, and several people have reported white-crowned sparrows, including six at our feeders this morning.

Flocks of mountain bluebirds are still moving through the area. I wonder how they will fare this winter. I hear that many of the Rocky Mountain junipers and pinyon pine on the high-plateau country north of Santa Fe have died from a  beetle infestation. This is where many bluebirds winter, and they may well have slim pickings this winter with fewer juniper berries. I wonder if they will go farther south or return to Colorado, where I understand there are a few more junipers still living.

Fall is definitely here, and winter is not too far away. The wind and rain will mean the end of the aspen locally. The leaves come tumbling down with every gust. They lie in golden ribbons in the ditch on either side of our road, but a few tenacious ones still cling to the trees. The leaves on the ground soon begin to decay, and the redolent scent of wet aspen leaves will greet me with every breeze.