Friday, October 07, 2011

Facing south

How long had it been since I’d seen the stars? I can’t remember exactly. I know I didn’t see them the entire month of September, but it could have been longer than that. August’s hazy skies often obscure all but the brighter stars, even on cloudless nights. Six weeks without a clear night to view the stars is my best guess.

So that amount of time without a clear view of a sight I’d previously taken for granted no doubt accounts for my gasp when I saw the perfectly clear night sky spread out in front of me during an early morning walk with Dog. Certainly, in the time since I’d last seen the stars, they had circled around and now presented me with a different view.

Now, Ursa Major stands on his tail. Canis Major loyally treads behind Orion, who still stabs at Taurus the Bull. The Seven Sisters peer down, shyly some would say, from above. It is a gorgeous sight, made more so by the absence.

The reappearance of a starry night sky is not the only “new” thing I’ve been seeing either. Suddenly, deer are everywhere. No doubt the fall rut is beginning. Yesterday morning I saw 10 of them, including two small but newly spot-less fawns, still running with mom. The deer are all over the place, even in daylight. It’s that time of year when I have to drive cautiously at night, as they jump out in front of a car without a thought for the potential danger. Only their eye-shine by the side of the road warns me.

Some summer avian residents remain, though many are gone. Up through the weekend, I still saw chimney swifts, though the swallows and kingbirds, pewees and wood thrush are long gone. Catbirds are still here, and robins. The last are in flocks, now, so I believe they aren’t the local residents, but those that summered further north, now grouped together as they move south again.

I’ve seen several large flocks, more than 100 each, of Canada Geese. These are likely migrants. The local residents typically don’t fly either as high or in as large a group. A peek at the local radar shows large numbers of birds moving through the region overnight. Sometimes I hear their chip notes, or their honks. In years past, on a moon-filled night, sometimes I even catch a glimpse of them.

Make no mistake, all migration lanes to the south are now open. Birds are pouring out of the northern woods and taking to the skies, heading to warmer climes. I will remain here and hope to welcome them back this spring and for many more to come.


John "By Stargoose And Hanglands" said...

The weather everywhere has been so confused and confusing, but the birds know exactly where they are in time and space, migrating at the right season and in the right direction.
Lovely post.

Pablo said...

I can see the stars on my early morning walks to work (5:30 a.m.), but I don't claim to know the constellations beyond Orion and the Big Dipper.