Now is a time of hoarding in nature

Barbara Hootman

Human hoarders are considered to be sick people who can’t part with anything for fear of needing it.  In nature a hoarder is a creature that is industrious and looking out for leaner times to come. Birds hoard as well as chipmunks and squirrels.  It is their instincts that drive them to be prepared for the worst.

The fall Blue Jay is a beautiful backyard bird that keeps all the other birds informed about what is going on.

The full Hunter’s Moon is coming on Oct. 16. It is usually bright enough to act as a beacon for man, hunting dog and coon.  It is as much about man’s relationship with his dog as it is hunting. It is about keeping a tradition alive.  Does the raccoon know that?  Probably not.

Van Burnette, owner of Hop’n Blueberry Farm, held a tag and release event for Monarch Butterflies on Saturday, Oct. 1.  The event was held in a huge field planted in Zinnias on the farm.   He reported capturing and tagging numerous Monarchs and two other migratory butterflies.  The Buckeye and the Cloudless Sulfur migrate to southern states to winter.  Burnette reported that he had never seen so many of them as he did on Oct. 1.  When the days are cool and overcast, buttterflies are not on the move.

Butterflies are not the only insects to wing their way south for the winter.  A number of dragonfly species migrate. The Green Darner, Wandering Glider, Black Saddlebags and Spot-Winged Glider head south in swarms in the fall.  Researchers know for sure that the Green Darners and Black Saddlebags make it to Mexico.

The elk rut at Cataloochee is underway in the Smoky Mountains, and if you haven’t visited at this time of the year, treat yourself to a day trip to see the elk.  About 20 elk have taken up residence near the Oconakuftee Visitor Center in Cherokee.  If you are lucky enough to see a more than 900-pound bull elk wander out of the early morning mist bugling, you won’t soon forget it.  The rut will last until about the third week of October.

There are at least 50 bird species that call the WNC mountains home year-round.  Among them are at least five species of woodpeckers, and the common birds at backyard feeders. Even the most common year-round birds show adaptations to cold weather.  Some add extra layers of feathers for insulation, and most shift from an insect diet to one of berries and seeds. Blue Birds will roost together in cold weather to stay warm, while Chickadees slip into a torpor state with their metabolism rate and body temperature dropping to save energy.

The Blue Jay always looks like his suit of feathers is pristine clean.

The fall Blue Jay is a unique backyard bird that many of us take for granted. It is a highly adaptable and intelligent bird.  Along with its natural calls it imitates many hawk calls, whistles, and cat meows.  It is a largely vegetarian bird, but has gotten a bad reputation for eating the eggs of other birds, and killing baby birds. Most of its diet is made up of acorns, nuts and seeds in the fall.

It has been a common bird in eastern and central North America, but now it is spreading its range to include the Northwest.  It is usually found in flocks or family groups, and is a social creature among its own kind.

A Blue Jay may migrate one year, and not the next, and scientists haven’t figured out the pattern of Blue Jay migration. When a Blue Jay does migrate, it travels south to the next location that has plenty of food. It is not a long-distance traveler.

A Blue Jay is adapt at cracking nuts, having a large strong beak and feet to hold the nut. It eats peanuts, grain, weed seeds, fruits, bread, meat, small invertebrates of many types, and scraps from picnics in parks.  It is a rare Blue Jay that eats other bird’s eggs and kills baby birds, and not Blue Jays as a species.

Some Blue Jays are more adapt at stashing food than others.  Gray Squirrels boss the Blue Jays around, especially at platform feeders.  The Blue Jay family travels and forages together until fall. Then the younger birds disperse to avoid competition for food during the cold months.

Give the fall Blue Jay suet, a variety of seeds, berries and fruit, and you have a happy bird.

Timber rattlesnakes will begin to den soon.  Bull frogs, snapping turtles and garter snakes are beginning to hibernate.

Ducks are arriving daily from north.

Chipmunks are beginning to work the area under bird feeders, carrying seeds to their winter dens.

The Black Bear’s appetite knows no bounds this time of year.

Continue to bring the bird feeders in at night.

Keep out plenty of fresh water for drinking and bathing.

May you always hear the whisper of wings.