September 1: I've been cheering on the arrival of fall, but just glanced through last years journal and the last day I observed a hummer here was Sept. 13th. I just hate to see these tiny warrior birds leave, probably more than any other. Guess I'd better make an effort to sit out and enjoy them more the next couple of weeks because it's a long haul before they're back again. I'll miss hearing the territorial squeaking of these little jewels. September is always a month of mixed feelings for me. As I watch the silent exodus of many migrants heading south, we also welcome the arrival of some of our winter residents, such as the Brown Creepers. I'm really missing our yellow-bellied sapsuckers this year, last year at this time we still had a couple juveniles that would beg for their jelly/oranges. I haven't seen nor heard a sapsucker in weeks now. We do have quite a few juvenile Red-bellied Woodpeckers though, and the second brood is now venturing out alone to the feeders.

Interesting to note also that the effects of West Nile were much more obvious last year. We had very few squirrels and chipmunks this time last year, as well as very few birds. So maybe, just maybe, the birds & fauna are already developing an immunity to this virus. I can only hope and pray that is true.

September 2: We had a special visitor tonight right at dusk. Special to me because they are loosing so much habitat in our immediate area due to logging and land development. Special to me because their exquisite songs are so rich and wonderful & I hear them more often than I see them. Bathing alone and very quietly along the edge of the pond was a juvenile Wood Thrush. Just one.

September 3: I had one of the most wonderful experiences today- one of those experiences that gives a person reason to pause and reflect. I was standing out in the yard with a bisquit in one hand and towel in the other. The chipping sparrow is coming closer to me all the time for food and I'm trying to catch it to remove the acorn stuck on it's beak. In pulls a strange car with an elderly couple inside. A pleasant looking gentleman, probably in his mid to late 70's stepped out and introduced himself as the man who built our home roughly 12 years ago. He sold the home to an elderly couple that used the house a few weeks out of the year as a summer home and we never had a chance to meet the seller when we bought the house- by then she was a widow living in upstate New York and everything was done via paperwork. She was just a 'name' without a face. No history, no memories, just a name on a disclosure statement. Lou put me at ease right away with his gentle demeanor and when he eagerly looked at me and asked 'do you mind if I look around the property?' I said of course. So we strolled around the perimeter of the house where he fondly recalled having 17 wild turkeys on the deck pecking at the sliding glass doors, planting the beautiful tall spruce trees out back and feeding the large herds of deer during the winter. He was tickled to see the birdpond and exclaimed how he was so happy to see that we hadn't removed any trees and had allowed the understory to thrive. Chickadees and grosbeaks darted around us while we stood out back and talked, and he'd stop in mid-sentence and say 'oh look, there goes a titmouse.. look over there, I see a red-belly woodpecker'. We bonded instantly. I shared with him how many bird species we've seen here in the 3 years we've lived here, and then his eyes teared up.. he told me how his wife, who passed away not long ago, would check off bird and fauna species each time she'd see something new. And how delighted she was to have flying squirrels here and pileated woodpeckers. How each year she'd get anxious for the spring wildflowers to appear and the hummingbirds to return - how she hung a feeder right outside the kitchen window, just like I have, so she could watch them while she did dishes.. just as I do each time I stand at the sink. My own eyes began to tear up while he related many treasured memories of time spent enjoying the same things that we're enjoying here each day. When he left, he thanked me profusely for allowing him to see the property again and how happy he was that someone lived here that appreciated nature and the wildlife that he and his wife both loved so well. He reminded me of just what it is that makes a house a home. Not just the structure, the environment or the animals that we share our home with but the joy and peace that comes with sharing those special encounters with loved ones and friends. Memories that will last a lifetime. Checkmarks on the heart.

September 5: On the way in to West Branch yesterday we sighted one lone Sandhill Crane juvenile, feeding in a hayfield. Today we fished Ausable lake and caught a few nice large-mouthed bass. Also enjoyed quite a few birds including 3 Common Loons, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers and an adult Osprey. There were quite a few duck species on the lake, but too far out to get an id. There were also hunters out in camoflauged boats, as early goose season has started.

September 7: Spent the afternoon fishing on Long Lake in Logan Township, not far from home. Caught a few smallish large-mouthed bass, and enjoyed hundreds of dragonflies and damsels, many of which landed on the boat rails/seats for closer views. Many painted turtles were basking on submerged logs in the shallows.

Good numbers of birds were also quite active around the lakeshore- a Belted Kingfisher rattled around the perimeter of the water, never allowing us to get too very close, while a Great Blue Heron flew over and landed on nearby Hardwood Lake. Pie-billed Grebes were feeding among the large plate-sized waterlilies while many muskrat were cruising about the shoreline. A beautiful Red-tailed Hawk made a few passes overhead while Gray Catbirds mewled and Cedar Waxwings buzzed from the thickets. Quite a few vireos, warblers and empid. species darted within the thicker cover while juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and American Robins gorged on dogwood berries and other ripe fruits. Note to self: Order a waterproof pair of compact binoculars soon.

September 8: On the way over to Prescott we sighted 6 Sandhill Cranes- 2 adults and 4 juveniles. A couple catocala came to the mercury light while I stood out listening to two Barred Owls calling. A girlfriend underwing couldn't be coaxed to my hand, but landed on the front of my robe a few times. What an interesting face they have.

September 9: While checking for salmon beds along the rifle river today, I observed many odes- yellow-legged meadowhawks & ruby meadowhawks were abundant.

We're seeing Wild turkey out in the open more often now and a Red-tailed Hawk juvenile is hanging around the property. Two very chubby hummers remain at the feeders- same as in previous years, they're vocalizing and fighting less/eating more.

September 12: Two monarch butterflies were feeding in the butterfly garden today, oblivious to my presence- while many yellow-legged meadowhawks perched on nearby flowers. One of the juvenile hummers is really quite bold today, chasing first a titmouse then a goldfinch. We have so many Common Grackles that they're splashing most of the water out of the pond within two days of refilling it. A beautiful Red-headed Woodpecker visited the feeder area today. At one point it was perching on the same tree trunk as a male Pileated Woodpecker.

September 15: We ventured south to the Shiawassee national wildlife refuge today. Despite intermittent showers, we viewed quite a few birds. The migrating ducks and geese haven't arrived in force yet, but good numbers of shorebirds/waders were present. The 'bird of the day' was definitely Great Egrets. Great Egrets along the dikes, Great Egrets perched in the trees and Great Egrets hunting in the river. It was nice to visit one of our old stomping grounds again.

September 16: Well, today it happened- no hummers at the feeders. Since I'm tired of providing food for aggressive bald-faced hornets and yellowjackets, I took down quite a few nectar feeders but still left a few out for the migrants. While sitting on the deck watching dragonflies basking on ferns I spotted our first Brown Creeper of the season, hop-skipping up the tree trunk. Two Barred Owls were vocalizing quite excitedly early this evening, then from the southeast a lone Great Horned Owl added his/her own call notes from a distance.

September 19: Spent the better part of the day at RRRA yesterday. This is the time of year I enjoy best, when the the only sounds are that of the wind rustling through the trees, the chittering of squirrels and chipmunks & bird calls. The 'bird of the day' was definitely Northern Flickers. They were numerous throughout the park and at the Ranch campgrounds area alone we counted over 50. Bird activity was high, especially along the river & streams. Odonata activity is still pretty good, with a variety of species still flying. There are still quite a few wildflowers to be found in the area, despite the dry conditions. I found white lettuce for the first time in the park, a lovely flower.

September 20: Another beautiful fall day- Henslows sparrows and juvenile Swainsons thrush were among the great birds we sighted in the open fields on Gerald Miller road. The area was full of small grasshoppers & locusts and the birds were having a feast. While photographing insects near the rifle river, I watched a flock of chickadees gorging on small bugs within a stand of goldenrod. They'd hop along under the tall flowers then climb the stems picking off insects.

September 24: Recent weather fronts have been pushing the migrants through in good numbers. We had several warbler species today including a juvenile Ovenbird, Black-throated Blues and Magnolias. A few juvenile Rose-breasted Grosbeaks remain and young goldfinch are abundant.

Earlier in the day, I was photographing an underwing moth when it took wing in the rain. An immature Blue Jay flew from behind me and hit the moth twice, but it escaped. The young Blue Jay is quite approachable compared to most, and it has been caching food under the deck.

September 28: The rainy/chilly weather is still with us, while the southward migration of passerines continues. I've been hearing the Barred Owls call earlier each day, as the days grow shorter. Still seeing good numbers of Maple Spanworm moths that blend in with the fall foilage so well.

2003 journals: January-February-March-April-May-June-July-August- October-November-December

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