September brings seasonal changes

Barbara Hootman

September brings the scent of smoldering leaves, and the hunter’s dog standing at a quivering ready to be off in the underbrush, at least to scare up a rabbit.

This nighthawk shows its distinctive marking of white bars and the pronounced white V in the neck area.
This red Hibiscus outside Art DeJong's home at Givens Highland Farms Retirement Center in Black Mountain should prove to be a beacon to migrating hummingbirds.
A whitetail doe deer nurses her piebald baby in Montreat.

September is wonder and amazement when you sit outside and watch the big stars and luminous moon close in. The big purple asters belong to September.  When mixed with the burnished gold of the golden rod you see where the colors of royalty originated.

The voices of fall are heard in the trees as the winds begin to sweep through the Valley.  The big oaks speak with heavy but distinct sounds.  Their leaves provide crispness. The maples have a softer voice, and their leaves are softer than the oaks. The willow family speaks in whispers.  The evergreens-pines and spruces-hum and provide a musical sound.  The voices talk of changes, but the time of discard draws close but hasn’t arrived yet.

Nature sees leaves as expendable, and finally by winter seals them off at the stem and then releases them to fall.  Leaf coloring speeds up by the time the autumn equinox arrives on September 22.  Don't wait for a frost to bring the leaves to their peak.  Jack Frost never colored any leaf but dead.

Nighthawks are migrating over Black Mountain and most of the United States now.  They are on their way to South America and the Caribbean to winter.  They are large distinctively marked birds that eat a huge amount of insects. Usually the best view of them is at dawn and dusk.  They are drawn to the bright lights of athletic fields and parking lots. Currently they can be heard and seen during the day as they migrate over the Ingles parking lot in Black Mountain.

Nighthawks nest in rural and urban habitats.  They nest on flat gravel rooftops in some areas.  While migrating they stop in farmlands, river valleys, marshes, costal dunes and open woodlands.  Not much is known about their winter habitat. During migration they fly by day in large groups.  Most travel over land for guaranteed feeding while traveling through Mexico and Central America.  Many pass through Florida and Cuba during migration.  They have a huge cavernous mouth which is well suited to snapping up flying insects.  They will forage for food from ground level to as high as 500 feet in the sky.

Nighthawks are camouflaged in gray, white, buff and black feathers. Their long, dark wings have a white bar mark about two-thirds of the way out to the tip.  When in flight a V-shaped white throat patch is visible.  They fly in erratic loop patterns.  When they roost they remain motionless on a tree branch, a fencepost or even the ground. They can hunt day or night, especially during moonlight nights.

They have a high pitched buzzy call sounding like “peent.”  They do not make a nest. They will be back next May to start the cycle over again.

The Montreat Community has a pair of piebald baby deer that are getting a lot of attention from residents. A piebald is an animal including horses and deer that has a spotting pattern of large white and brown or black patches.  The coloring is most often asymmetrical, producing a deer with large random brown and white color.  Piebalds are unusual animals.  The piebald condition is produced by a genetic variation (defect).  It is not due to disease. Sometimes the deer will be almost all white, and sometimes it will look like a pinto pony.  Some piebald deer show abnormalities such as a bowing or Roman nose, short legs and arched spine and short lower jaws.  The two babies in Montreat appear to be normal deer.

Fran Aceto said it was not unusual to find the two baby deer asleep in her driveway.  Their mother recognizes a safe territory.  Aceto said she has been watching them for about a month.

For those looking for the kites over Old Fort, James Poling said the Mississippi Kites is far more numerous than the Swallow-tailed kites.

Migration picks up during the next three weeks with warblers passing through in waves by mid-month.  Catbirds, Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Titmice, and Blue Jays start hiding food.

Broad-winged hawk migration peaks by mid-to-late month.

Bats are eating heavily to build fat reserves for hibernation.

Chimney Swift migration peaks.

Most Ruby-throated hummingbirds depart by the end of the month. Don’t take down the feeders because northern “hummers” continue to pass through.

Goldenrod and ragweed continue to bloom.  It is ragweed that makes people sneeze.

Keep out plenty of water for bathing and drinking, and continue to take in the bird feeders.  Bear are on the prowl for any food.

May you always hear the whisper of wings.