This morning, for the first time this fall, the ground is covered with frost. It is a perfect fall morning – blue sky, calm wind, and freezing temperatures. All around, trees finish the growing season in a burst of color as if they’ve saved their best for last. On sunny days, their colors make the world seem warmer than it is, and I wish this season could go on for many months.
In the mornings, more and more juncos are showing up at the feeders. A couple of weeks ago there seemed to be mostly the brownish-gray variety. Lately, the really dark gray juncos, which I presume are from farther north, seem to be more abundant. The white-throats and white-crowned sparrows are still here, along with kinglets, robins, towhees, and flickers, and still an occasional warbler. They feast on the wild seeds and berries, which are slowly disappearing. At night, many of them take flight moving further southward and one can hear their little flight notes as they call to each other from high in the dark night sky. The national weather service posted a radar loop from Key West, FL, which showed millions of birds making the amazing journey across the southern Gulf of Mexico to the Caribbean and South America (warblers, orioles, tanagers, and thrushes that adorn our springs and summers). Out on Lake Michigan, waterfowl of the far north, scaups, long-tails, mergansers, loons- can be seen far out from shore- the first of the birds which keep us company throughout the winter.
The frost itself seems to be a miracle – the sudden transformation of liquid dew to delicate crystals is well described in science in terms of phase change and release of latent heat, but those facts seem to give little insight to the beauty of frost coating a newly fallen leaf. And all that is happening when that first frost is seen.
Some people see the frost as a portent of nasty weather to come, and some mourn for the warmer weather that is now past for this year. I think it is true that we are happier when we appreciate the moment as it is now, and enjoy the beauty of the frost and the wildlife around us rather than dwell on what was or what will be. In doing so we are reminded of the value of nature and perhaps care for it a little better so that we can continue to enjoy all the miracles of fall.
photo courtesy Associated Press