Written by Kennedy Zittel, Assistant Naturalist
On my way to work, I have passed by the same group of four sandhill cranes every morning. What started as two small chicks and the two parents has now turned into 4 sandhill cranes of the same size, hanging out in the same field each day. I have gotten so used to seeing them that when they weren’t there the other day, it felt like part of my routine was all out of sorts. They were back the next day, however. It reminded me that soon enough they will migrate for the winter.
With that thought, I felt quite sad. I love fall. I love the cooler weather and the changing of the leaves, yet it always seems to go by so quickly. And with the passing of fall, comes the colder weather, which means that many of the animals that we had grown so accustomed to seeing each day will no longer be around.
I have begun to notice that a lot of the common sightings around here have already disappeared. The ground squirrels that once raced across the lawn have been missing for a few weeks now, tucked away in their burrow for winter. The resident woodchucks, all named Skippy, have not been seen eating fallen seed under the feeder for the past few weeks either. A lot of the birds that once sang from the treetops or ate at the feeders have either migrated already or are decreasing in numbers with every cold front leading them towards warmer areas for the winter.
As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Come springtime, when the snow is finally gone, when the sun is finally warming us up, getting to see those animals return will be so much more exciting after not seeing them for so long. What used to be such a common occurrence that we wouldn’t even pay it much thought, will be announced with such excitement. “I saw a sandhill crane!” “Skippy woke up!” “There goes a ground squirrel!” etc.
With the passing of fall also comes the arrival of other friends to take the place of the ones that are snoozing or spending winter in a toastier place. Juncos spend their winters here and are a welcomed sight at the feeders. Some animals, like squirrels, will stay awake in the winter, so we still get to see them scamper around. As the fall season passes by, I will try to take every sighting with excitement, knowing that any day now might be the last until spring. It makes us appreciate what we are so lucky to get to see, once we no longer can see them. With that, I wish my warmer-month friends the best of times on their winter vacation, and cannot wait to see them again in spring!
photo by Nancy Nabak