Wildlife Lessons: Welcoming Autumn Visitors


“These are brand-new birds of   
twelve-months’ growing,  
Which a year ago, or less than twain,   
No finches were, nor nightingales,  
Nor thrushes,     
But only particles of grain,   
And earth and air, and rain.”  

~Thomas Hardy



In spring, I wait patiently for life to stir in my garden.  For the first native bees to wake and buzz happily finding new nectar and pollen.  To see the first butterflies stretch their wings, and the first frogs and toads hop into the pond.



And of course I await the return of the song birds who migrate here to find a spot to make a nest and raise a family….the robins, red-winged blackbirds, hummingbirds and orioles….to name a few.



And once these birds begin to leave, in late August for their winter homes, I am saddened by the silence in the garden.  The butterflies flying south keep me company, but I miss the birds’ gladful chorus.



This autumn, I was reminded that there is still much to be grateful for as critters find their way to our oasis, and share a few moments.  With the warmer weather lingering longer, we were able to welcome many wonderful creatures.





The first new visitors were the White-crowned Sparrows you see above and here.  This one is an immature bird, probably born just this year.  The mature bird is at the top of the post.  I love their black and white striped heads.



These beauties come north to breed every year in summer.  And while they are nearby, I don’t see them until they are migrating back south for the winter.  They stop by for a snack of seeds, which is why I try to leave my seed heads in the garden well into late fall.





With the warm weather, we saw many robins come down from the north.  They hung around for quite a few weeks, finding berries and fruit to eat.  Our usual robins, who return each spring, left us in August.




birds feeding

And with the exodus of the summer songbirds, comes the reemergence of resident birds in to the garden.  They now take their rightful spot here all fall and winter to enjoy the suet we provide.  The Red-bellied Woodpecker (top left), the Pileated Woodpecker (center), and White-breasted Nuthatch (bottom left) also look for any insects they can find in the trees.  The Black-capped Chickadees (right) will forage for seeds.




birds in distance

The Cardinal (top left) and his mate love to hang about in our front trees once the throngs of other birds have left.  And we are thrilled to see the Red-winged Blackbirds (right) come by for a bite on their way south.  Although this year, there were many more throngs of them for many more weeks than in years past.  Some mature males seemed to be checking out the area for possible nesting sites too.  Perhaps we’ll see more of them in spring.



And with the cooler air brings the raptors back from Canada.  This Red-tailed Hawk (bottom picture-he was far away) is making our garden and wild area his winter home.  We watch him hunt almost daily.





The last groups of birds to go, and the first to come in spring, are the European Starlings.  I have never seen so many large groups visiting for days on end.  I adore watching their murmurations around the trees and fields.  Maybe next year I can catch them on video.





Of course, in our garden, the toads bury themselves in fall, but the frogs (these are Green Frogs) were lingering in the pond well into early November.  They will bury themselves at the bottom of the pond to overwinter once the mercury dips to freezing, and stays there.  Here is our romantic couple still together.


We spotted many frogs still in the pond at the end of November.





One of the biggest surprise visitors was this Northern Leopard Frog.  I have never seen them around the pond in fall, and especially not in late November.  But they will find permanent water, like our pond, and also bury themselves in the mud at the bottom.  This frog will emerge before the others and breed in the pond in early spring.  Then they move to the grassy areas of the garden in summer while the other frogs and toads come to the pond to breed.  I just love the cycle of life, through the seasons, in our pond and garden.


If I hadn’t been clearing the pond garden later than I usually do, I would have missed this frog….of course the warmer November weather kept it in the garden longer as the pond never froze until the end of November.





Our last surprise visitor in late fall was this insect.  No it’s not a strange looking giant ladybug.  It is a Swamp Milkweed Leaf Beetle, Labidomera clivicollis.  How cool is that!  I will be looking for these beetles next year on my Swamp Milkweed plants, and seeing if they also hang around on the other milkweed I have growing in the garden.  Then I can study them a bit more.



It is amazing what wildlife still lingers in the garden from September to November, when we think all have left for warmer climates or hibernation.  We just have to pay attention.  And I find it easier to spot the wildlife in the declining garden and leafless trees of fall.  I wonder who will come visiting this winter.  You know I’ll keep you posted.




With this wildlife story, I am joining in the meme Wildlife Wednesday hosted by Tina@My Gardener Says that happens the first Wednesday of every month, and with Saturday’s Critters hosted by Eileen@Viewing nature with Eileen that happens every Saturday.  I am also linking in with with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday, and Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every week.



And I am sharing this lesson with Beth@PlantPostings for her wonderful Garden Lessons Learned meme.  I hope you will join her.  Please check out all these great blogs.



Also as the solstice approaches, please join me at my garden blog, Gardens Eye View,  for my quarterly meme, Seasonal Celebrations. There you can find all the details for linking up to this celebration of the coming of the new seasons around the world.  I hope you can join me with a post.




I leave you with another thought about the lessons I am learning from nature.  Feel free to download the photo and share.


All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Living From Happiness, 2014-15.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.