Fall is in the Air

(Yes! It’s August!)

As a longtime observer of nature—especially but not only birds—I’ve been spending a lot of time watching the ebb and flow in Croton on Hudson, especially down in Croton Landing. The Landing is a pretty remarkable mix of created habitats (freshwater ponds, riverside beaches, a mini cattail marsh, fields with tall trees, and of course the river). This month (both on the Landing and in the town) has seen so many signs of in-progress and impending autumn, things I never really noticed before I started walking along the river so often.

A few examples: After a midsummer silence, several bird species have been singing again (if sometimes weakly and sporadically) at the Landing, including Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler, and Baltimore Oriole. Red-tailed Hawks have been endlessly vocal—are these young newly on their own and complaining that they’re not being fed? The Killdeer that nest around the Croton train tracks have been flighty and vocal as well. Among mammals, the Landing’s woodchucks are getting themselves fat. 

In town, there’s a large population of vultures that spends all winter here. After a summer where I saw mostly Turkey Vultures, the flocks seem larger–real kettles–and include many Black Vultures as well. Also, twice in the past two weeks, my neighborhood has been inundated with grackles, gleaning every bit of food they can find before moving on. (We’re trying to protect the black-swallowtail caterpillars, themselves feasting on the parsley and dill in our pollinator garden as they race the clock to grow big enough to pupate, from the keen-eyed grackles.)

It’s fascinating—and heartening—to see how nature inherently understands the way the seasons meld into each other: How even in the midst of what still feels like midsummer to us humans, it’s preparing for what happens next.  — Joe Wallace