Are our falls better?

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By Nancy Oakes

Recently, I talked to the real estate agent in Georgia who helped me with my house hunting. She said, "you'd love it up here today." I asked about their weather. "Clear," she said, "and not too hot and not too cold." Northern Georgia was having one of those bright fall days most of us love. A week or so after my conversation with her, our area headed into some similar fall days.

I could walk in the wood without breaking into a sauna-like sweat. Flower for flower, I suspect our area has more wildflowers blooming now. The part of Georgia I'm moving to will support some similar plants such as goldenrod and aster. Brown-eyed susans may bloom along roadsides, but here in Florida we can see all kinds of yellow wildflowers. A lot of these fall bloomers are composites, such as yellow buttons and all the different kinds of yellow asters. Walk in our woods these days and you will be treated to seeing bright patches of yellow blooms.

Beside a wide variety of yellow blooming wildflowers, many other fall flowers turn into shades of pink. Some of the prettiest fall wildflowers of our area include the glorious blazing star, false foxglove, paintbrush, and palafoxia. The magenta berries of beautyberry bushes and the red berries of sumac add to the fall colors of our home. I saw palafoxia starting to bloom on my last walk in the wood next door. This long-stemmed wildflower has paler colors than blazing star or paintbrush. Another wild plant starting to bloom, silkgrass or silver aster, has complex silvergreen shaded stems and small bright yellow flower clusters. Flat-topped goldenrod wasn't quite ready to open on my last walk.

The butterflies and birds seem extra energetic these days. Blue jays call all the time; gangs of titmice visit the water dishes; towhees, formerly silent, now whistle and sing. I finally found the pond in the wood with some water in it. Dragonflies were dancing over its surface. I sat under the shade of trees and bushes growing on the pond edge. After a few minutes of sitting still, I heard a white-eyed vireo sing, brown thrashers scolding, and gnatcatchers wheezing as they flew in pursuit of insects. I saw a dog-like animal come out of the trees and brush, and realized it was a coyote. It looked in my direction but didn't act as though it saw me. The coyote trotted to the water, and I heard it lapping as it drank. It then walked around the edge of the pond splashing through the water. A bug started biting me and I moved. I'm not sure the coyote saw me, but it did sense my movement and it left, stopping once to peer through the bushes in my direction.

If that weren't enough wildlife spotting, I also saw a gray fox in my yard. I stood watching it as the dratted beast lifted its leg and peed on my little fringe tree. Thank you very much. Both the coyote and the fox looked healthy with a lot of red mixed in with darker colors in their coats. I observed a quail flushing away from me when I walked in the wood. On a bike ride to the post office, I passed a fox squirrel sitting on a fence post. I was glad to see it run into a field away from busy 41. All this wildlife crossing my path in such a short time makes me wonder how Georgia will compare. I even had a small green tree frog hitch a ride on my truck. I made sure to drop it off in a suitable habitat.

I hope you are able to enjoy some nature observing in our area during these rich fall days. Until next time, good observing.