Friday, September 16, 2011

I Know that Fall is in the Air

At 7:00 this morning the temperature was a cool 62 degrees with a light breeze blowing down canyon, as the heavy air flows from the higher elevations to Proctor Overlook and the grasslands. It's another beautiful morning in Madera Canyon. The monsoon still lingers and cumulus clods are already growing along the crest and beyond. Rumor has it that there is a 20% chance of rain. The creek serenaded me to sleep last night and gently prodded me awake this morning. Have I told you lately that I love this place?

I know that Fall is in the air because the mums are flowering in the gardens at the Chuparosa. These pretty yellow flowers attract butterflies, bees and me. They always remind me of Nancy. You see, all the mums were gifts to Nancy in years past. They are, truely, a gift that keeps on giving. Long ago, they brightened up her day when I surprised her with flowers. Later they matured, dropped their flowers, lost their luster, and were set outside to be planted in the winter gardens. Each year, thereafter, they bloomed in September and signaled that Fall is around the corner. Nancy loves the Fall season in Madera Canyon.

I know that fall is in the air because two of my favorite fliers are migrating thru the Sky Islands of southern Arizona. Hummingbirds and nectar feeding bats are hitting the feeders in large numbers as they make their way to points further south. Devastating forest fires hit Arizona this year and the habitat for their flight home has changed for the worse. As a result, we are keeping the nectar feeders full and refilling them for the night shift. There are thousands of bats migrating thru each night. It is a sight to see as they nimbly glide thru the forest understory as if they could see every tree, shrub, and feeder. Did you know that 28 species of bats have been reported in Arizona and 16 of those have been found in Madera Canyon?

I know that fall is in the air because the telephone wires on the way down the hill have lots of migrating western flycatchers perching as they seek out a buffet of grasshoppers. The "butcher birds" are back on the wires too! Logger-head Shrikes post up along the road  and watch the White-winged Doves as they head south to Sonora. The grass along the sides of the road as you drive up canyon is a favorite spot to find many butterfly species, including the beautiful Variegated Fritillary. They are feeding on snakeweed (Gutierrzia sarothrae), turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia), and the many sunflowers that bloom this time of year.

Finally, I know Fall is in the air because the autumnal equinox is next week. On September 23rd the sun will pass directly over the earth's equator and the day will be split in two equal parts. Look up into the night sky and you will see Capricornus or the Seagoat. He will be up in "The Sea" along with Pices and Aquarius. The local O'odham name for September is "Moon of the Dry Grass." By the end of September drying winds will turn the sea of green grass into a carpet of brown tinder.

Adios, until next time.