Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Coming Fall

Fall is here or at least its harbinger is.

One of the signs of fall in my region is the changing color of the White Tail Deer. In the spring and summer they are a creamy buff, almost orange, but when the temperatures start to dip and the calendar says September, the deer change to a dark brownish-gray. It is nature’s way to protect them from the coming cold. The darker hairs on the Odocoileus virginianus, the Latin name for the White Tail deer, grows with a more quilting in the hair to give them better warmth in the winter season.

Back in the 1930’s the White Tail deer population in North America was very low. It was probably around 300-thousand. A number of programs, along with seasonal hunting regulations, saw the population increase to the current estimate of 30-million across several states.

I often go walking in the woods this time of year. I see the heart shaped indented footprint of the White Tail in the mud or soft dirt. Their pellet droppings are evident everywhere as is the occasional antler rack left by the bucks on the forest floor. The racks don’t remain long for mice and ants will devour the calcium in short order.

There is another part of the coming fall that I like. There seems to be a human atavistic urging to gather wood, clean the fireplace, put outdoor things in a safe covered place, and mow the lawn or meadow for one last time.

I saw a flock of twelve wild turkeys pecking their way across my lower meadow the other day. They eat nuts and berries, insects, legumes and grasses. They also need water on a daily basis, so my little stream and pond is ideal for their survival. Eventually they will break up into small groups for the winter and then get together for mating in the spring.

It's interesting to note that these birds have great eyesight and can run up to 18 miles per hour and can fly up to 55 miles per hour when escaping predators.

The only reason we call them turkeys is that the early settlers in this land thought they looked like a bird that was captured in Africa and imported to Europe through ports in the country Turkey; hence the name. They are an entirely different species.

In this weekend's moderate sunshine and heat there was a collective swarming of ants and termites all along our short rural road. Nature seemed to time it perfectly. The swarms were simultaneous. Amazing.

I wonder what more profound things nature provides that we do not see in our blindness?

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