The single-note whistle floated through the air with a refined grace so unique that to hear it is to know it.
The Townsend Solitaires are back! And I just stood in my yard and listened for a while. To hear that whistle is to know things, timely things.
During the summer, Townsend’s solitaires occupy the montane forests where they nest and raise their offspring. As fall progresses they move to lower elevations, some staying in mountain parks, others descending to the plains – my neighborhood! – where they spend the winter.
Loners aren’t the only wildlife with reliable seasonal calendars.
The cicadas have stopped buzzing. They get strong in July and August when the summer heat is at its peak. Their exuberance fades as temperatures drop. They are silent first at night and finally during the day as well.
And the crickets are now chirping erratically. Those in warm places on the south side of houses and fences still manage to sing a little during the day, but they all go quiet by sunset.
My late afternoon walks around the block no longer have a background chorus of buzzing cicadas and chirping crickets.
Various spiders now spawn in the garage, as do roly-polies and centipedes. A few manage to wander occasionally throughout the summer, but at this time of year their numbers increase dramatically as they seek out the warmth. Some even find a way to sneak into the house!
We usually think of spring and summer as the blooming season for wildflowers, but a few species in the sunflower family wait until late summer and early fall to bloom. Seven species of goldenrod and eight asters bloom through October here in Larimer County.
And of course, the leaves of shrubs and trees are reaching their peak color change right about now. Each plant has its own color preference of bright yellow, golden yellow, light red, dark red or a blended hue of magenta and purple.
The combination of leaf color and shape can attract attention when raking the lawn. The leaves of your shrubs and trees as well as those of your neighbors’ yards all possess a certain familiarity, but the leaves blowing in the wind reveal other types of trees elsewhere in the neighborhood. Finding the source of those leaves can add a bit of fun to a gardening chore.
Rufous Broad-tailed Hummingbirds no longer visit sugar water feeders.
Swainson’s hawks are all but gone now, but legged hawks are just coming.
Deer fawns shed their spots as they molt and grow into more uniformly colored hair.
Bats no longer waltz in the evening sky.
Every detail of the fauna speaks separately and distinctly about the species and its way of life. Taken collectively, these wildlife details present an ecological mural that exemplifies connectivity. Much of this connectivity is about interactions between species, but some of this connectivity is about life’s response to the seasons.
When you go five or six months without hearing the one-note whistle of Townsend’s solitaire in your neighborhood, you know it’s summer. When you hear it again, you know October has arrived.
Suddenly that whistle says something. If you pay attention to the activities of Life, you don’t need a calendar and mathematical calculations of astronomical phenomena to know what time of year it is.