Nature begins to tuck itself in for another season

Nature begins to tuck itself in for winter, which draws nearer each week. Frost, the fall winds and days of rain bring down the leaves, leaving only skeletons of trees.

The fall winds make the spent leaves appear restless. They blow them across roads, into streams, and pile them against fences. The leaves don’t seem to mind. Now on the ground they are free to ride the wind currents. In a few weeks, these same leaves will blanket the seeds, roots and bulbs for the next few months, until spring calls them out of their slumber.

November is the evening of the aging year when nature says it is time to rest. The pines and hemlocks are left to sing nature to sleep, since the songbirds won’t sing again for months. There are the wrens that persist, but they cannot carry the choir into full voice now.

The crows are loud and raucously bragging that with the songbirds gone south the world belongs to them. From leafless treetops they swoop down on bird feeders, and when they see peanuts, the party is on. The squirrels cannot compete with them. When the crows call a convention, nothing in nature can compete with their noise level. The world would be a lonely place, especially in the coldest months, without crow opinions being expressed.

They seem to enjoy their bad reputations for always getting their way, and sometimes it involves violence. The crow is never shy about parading its vices or its intelligence.

Some people think bird feeders keep birds, especially those in the fall and winter, from starving to death. They do make a difference in survival, especially when Mother Nature covers natural foods with snow and ice. Finding food can be challenging for birds in winter.

But that isn’t the case in late fall because there are still fruits available and an abundance of seeds that haven’t been covered. But, birds have to know where to come to make use of feeders.

They get about 25 percent of their daily intake of food from bird feeders. The rest is foraged for in nature. There is still a lot of food left in nature. Berries are still available, which birds devour.

Holly berries are ripe, and some will last into spring. These berries attract bluebirds, thrushes, woodpeckers, catbirds, thrashers, mockingbirds and cedar waxwings.

Juniper is another native tree that helps birds survive winter. It provides food and shelter. Juniper berries are favored by Bobwhites, turkey, bluebirds, robins and other thrushes. Mockingbirds and robins also enjoy them. Jays and sapsucker woodpeckers and waxwings feast on them also.

Notice how powder blue the cedar trees appear. Their blue berries help cast the blue haze. Thrushes and bluebirds enjoy the cedar berries along with other birds.

Staghorn sumac seed heads last from fall through the winter into early spring. You’ll find warblers, woodpeckers, chickadees, bluebirds and other thrushes, catbird, thrashers and mockingbirds feeding on them.

Viburnum has red, yellow, blue or black berries on it in the fall. Some of the berries will last through the winter. They attract robins, bluebirds, thrushes, catbirds, cardinals, finches and waxwings.

Crabapples are still plentiful, and some will last into spring. Robins, waxwings and grosbeaks feed on them.

Persimmons are ripe, and those on the ground entice a lot of birds to eat their share.

Bittersweet berries are eaten by many birds.

Fall goldfinches gather in small flocks. They mix with doves, cardinals, sparrows, juncos, chickadees and nuthatches. When they visit a feeder they fly in and eat as much and as fast as possible. Their beaks turn black in the fall and won’t be bright orange again until spring.

Mockingbirds stop their fall singing by mid-November. They have established fall and winter food territories, and there is no longer any reason to sing about it.

Birds are not the only wildlife eating berries in the fall and winter. Squirrels, gray and red fox, raccoons and skunks are among wildlife that enjoy fall fruits.

Feeding birds makes life easier for them and more enjoyable for us. You can watch the feeder show from the comfort of your home.

Young male gray squirrels usually change territories in the fall and aren’t car-savvy. This is the time of the year when a lot of young squirrels are hit by cars.

White tailed deer bucks are easily recognized in the fall by their antlers. By winter, they will shed their racks.

Witch hazel is the latest blooming shrub in the mountains. It is in bloom now, covered with yellow blossoms.

Keep out plenty of fresh water for bathing and drinking. Bring the bird feeders inside to prevent bear visits.

May you always hear the whisper of wings.