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It’s gettin’ to be “THAT” time of year. The time of year when the sounds start to change. I know most people think immediately of the visual clues that autumn is upon us. I think of the audio differences.
The sounds of lawn mowers and weed-whackers have given way to chain-saws and leaf blowers. While the leaves are still on the trees and my hummingbird flowers are at their peak, that the seasons are changing is unmistakable. The acorns are pelting me every time I head into the yard. The sound of them hitting the roof and rolling down always makes me smile. From the sounds of things, the deer and squirrels are going to have plenty to keep them full this year.
Another sound that is changing is that of the chipmunks. Gone is the casual play chatter. Now, there’s a definite urgency in their calls and interactions with each other. Soon it will be time for hibernation. Their tunnels must get full for their long naps. The bird and corn feeders are all “fair game” for these little bandits.
The change that is the most notable for me is more the lack of a particular sound. It’s one of my favorite sounds and it’s rapidly diminishing. It’s the sound of hummingbirds at play. Since late April, our yard has been a battle ground of competing/playing hummingbirds.
Our first to arrive was an adult male who I named “Nelson.” He got that name because he would sit stoically on a particular post guarding his feeder domain from any and all would-be pilferers. He reminded me of the statue of Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square.
From that point until just a couple of weeks ago, the yard was something akin to the skies over England during the Battle of Britain. There were major and minor skirmishes everywhere. The adult males were always battling for superiority and to claim their territory. The females battled for the best areas in which to nest. Then came the new brood! Much like children, even though there were plenty of feeder ports to go around (we put out 16 feeders – most with 6 ports each), it was only natural that the “kids” would fight over only a few. The sounds of squealing and the whir of wings always sounds to me like the “Ty-fighters” from Star Wars. (I secretly wonder if George Lucas actually taped the sounds of hummingbirds in dives to use for his inspiration.) Now, there are only a few, very large, fat hummingbirds left. When they leave the feeder, the sound and look is much more lumbering. Think C-130 Hercules! The pitch is so much lower as they work to keep their golf-ball-shaped bodies in the air.
There is some solace, though, in that the sound of Goldfinches is starting to take over. The seed feeders are filled and hung in place of a few of our nectar feeders (although I always keep at least a couple of nectar feeders going until the snow flies). We’ve had the real pleasure of seeing some more unusual migrants visit these feeders this month (including a gorgeous, male, black-throated blue warbler). Soon it will be almost exclusively the birds of winter.
The Chipping Sparrows will give way to American Tree Sparrows. The trees will be full of jays, cardinals, Black-capped chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted nuthatches, and all varieties of woodpeckers. The ground-dwelling White-throated sparrows will come and then continue south. The adorable, Dark-eyed juncos will return for their winter stay.
Soon the sounds will be the crunch of leaves and the wind whistling through bare trees. Not too long after that, the almost silence of a snow-covered world. All are special and quite beautiful in their own way, but I must admit to anxiously awaiting, every year, the first true sounds of spring/ summer – the squeals of “my” hummingbirds returning home.
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