BIRD WATCH: Spend energy wisely as summer turns to fall

A FEW DAYS ago, I heard several people talking about the “dog days of summer.”

That reminded me of Nat King Cole’s “crazy, hazy days of summer.”

They have definitely been hazy.

Energy, among dogs as well as people, has been very low.

Now, things are beginning to change.

September started Saturday.

It’s coming slowly but the changes that signal fall are happening.

Most of the birds have gone silent.

There’s little to sing about when you aren’t defending nesting territory or herding young about the yard.

It’s a challenge to discover who is living in the gardens and woodlands.

Sometimes a scratching in the underbrush reveals a towhee looking for something to eat.

Strange looking sparrows are spotted and they aren’t immediately recognized.

Young white-crowned sparrows don’t have their white crowns right away.

Just for a moment you question if someone new has stopped by.

The bushtits, chickadees and nuthatches come daily to eat at the lard/oatmeal mix or the suet cakes.

They make the rounds in the neighborhood and often return two or three times, but their constant presence isn’t seen.

Hummingbirds, both the Anna’s and the rufous, make regular stops at the feeders but they too prefer to feed among the flowers.

A large bed of hardy fuchsia can keep a hummer busy for several minutes.

This natural food is more appealing and they know it won’t last much longer.

This is one of those times of the year, just like spring, when you don’t know where to apply your energy first.

A sad-looking lawn needs thatching, reseeding and fertilizing.

That can wait a few weeks more.

After all, the rabbits are grazing on the only green grass left.

I’m not going to, for all intents, destroy it.

There’s always weeding and fall landscaping begging for attention, but the young juncos, song sparrows and towhees look upon the mess as their home.

Of course there is fall house cleaning waiting for attention, but I prefer to wring the last bit of summer out of the weeks ahead.

There are still warm and sunny days to enjoy.

Once temperatures drop and the wind and rain move in, fall and winter will seem to last forever.

This is a great time to enjoy hiking, camping, birding and gardening.

I’m going to concentrate on doing a little of each.

Instead of waiting for winter, this is a good time to clean and repair bird houses, both those that were used and others that for one reason or another, were ignored.

Sometimes there are surprises waiting.

Of course the chickadees didn’t use that house. The bees took it over.

Maybe relocating it to another spot will solve that problem.

Sometimes there will be a nest in a box that we thought wasn’t used.

That happens over and over with the chickadees.

This is also a good time to take inventory of the feeders.

As they age, the wear and tear of hard use makes them difficult to get really clean.

At other times, all they need is a hard spray with a hose inside them.

It’s messy, but often does the trick.

Letting them dry overnight is a good idea.

During this short interval between the seasons, the most fun (in my opinion) is trying to squeeze more trips onto the calendar.

It’s been too long since I’ve enjoyed birding east of the mountains.

It’s also been too long since I’ve visited our cabin on the Olympic Peninsula’s Hoh River.

Accomplishing both will be the perfect way to say farewell to summer and welcome in early fall.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email:

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