Marking the Middle of Autumn

Female Ruby-Throated HummingbirdThrough the trees a couple of honks announced a gaggle of Canada geese approaching from the north. In less than a minute, maybe 20 individuals in a signature V floated just over the stand of oak trees, wings beating in almost perfect unison. They likely would land in a field of corn stubble, at least near a stream, if not in the pond across from the Mount St. Mary’s University campus a few miles down the road.

For the past few days, Blue Jays here been gathering, like caravaners of old, preparing to head south, rather than west, for the winter. Apparently, though, the new caravaners are mostly young birds. Older couples – blue jays, by the way, are monogamous – tend to stay around here for the winter. That’s OK. The jays love the peanuts we toss out to the squirrels, and we love watching as they drop down to the back deck, grab a nut, and make off to feast in peace.

Great murmurations of European Starlings pirouette over fields along the two-lane, fattening utility lines with rows of roosting spotted birds. They all are descended from 100 specimens turned loose in New York City’s Central Park in the 1890s by human immigrants who apparently missed the flavor of the old country.

In the rocks beside our backyard stream, two dried garter snake skins silently explain why the watercourse is not overrun with frogs, and a lone Monarch butterfly flutters and glides around the grassy field as though searching for relatives recently opting for winter in Mexico.

Outside my window, the sun has been appearing a little later each morning, a few trees to the right of where it appeared mid-summer. A former boss used to say, in honor of my starting work early in the morning, he would allow me to stay late in the afternoon. The sun has taken the opposite tack, coming late and leaving early.

By the way, the autumn equinox – from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night) – the day on which daylight and night are astronomically equal, will be Sept. 22 at 10:21 in the morning, Pennsylvania time.

In other news, John Hinckley and JonBenet Ramsey are big. The stories continue to “captivate much of America,” according to at least one excitedly breathless evening television news anchor. Safe drinking water for native Americans in the Dakotas, and for consumers down the Missouri river, not so much.

Only in the past few days — and then only because of reports of physical clashes between the Native American protestors and the company wanting to run an oil pipeline under a portion of the Sioux tribe’s water supply — has the issue been included in the television news reports.

A judge last week ruled against the Standing Rock Sioux, giving the go-ahead to developers waiting to construct the line. Within minutes, the Department of Justice, Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of the Interior announced no permits would be issued until the situation had been re-reviewed.

Hardly had the radio waves calmed from that announcement than the oil industry proclaimed the federal ruling would have “a long-lasting chilling effect” on corporate efforts to develop oil transport infrastructure. They always say that when they lose, just before they find another way.

On another front, Congress, in a move led by Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., whose state is inexorably disappearing beneath the ocean waves, is attempting to block the Securities and Exchange Commission from telling would-be investors about the potential impact of climate change.

Meanwhile, a lone hummingbird attends to nearly desiccated posies; soon she, too, will head for distant warmth. I wonder whether her reluctance to leave portends another warm winter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.