Birds of Nebraska: Newspaper Accounts, 1854-1923

Sandy Griswold. September 21, 1919. Omaha Sunday World-Herald 54(51): 13-W.

Golden Days of Summer Are Sloping Into Golden Days of Fall

Autumn days!

With such unmistakable signs that are now manifest to sight and hearing the summer nods to its fullness and decline and sadly recedes before the advance of fall. The long drawn, vibrant note of the locust in the maples and elms has faded into one dry and hesitant rasp; the deportment of our birds has changed in a way that some of them are hardly recognizable; no longer is heard the jocund minstrelsy that filled the summer sensuous air, their populent chirps are plaintive with the sadness of farewell.

The silvery-winged bobolink has lost, along with his pied coat, the merry lilt that tinkled so incessantly over the clover and the daisies of our June meadows, and even the song sparrow rarely thrills his fine strings that cheered us so wondrously in the doubtful days of spring.

The bluebird's abbreviated chanson, however, still floats down from the fleece-draped skies as sweet as ever, though mournful as the patter of autumn leaves, when once they begin to fall. But the gay and jaunty little goldfinch, our common yellow or salad bird, has but three notes left of his trysting carol as he tilts on the latest blossoms and fluffy seeds of the still upstanding thistles or undulates in his aerial voyages across and over the roven pastures.

The meadowlark charms us no more with his long drawn piccolo solos from turf-tuft or fence post, but with one sharp, insistent note, struts in the meadow stubble or skulks among the tussocks of the wet low lands in search of something he never finds. The yellowhammer still cackles from the orchard across the glistening hay field, but not as he did in those sweet, reviving days of early spring, with the soft caressing winds and the infrondescence of field and wood as comrades, but either in a timid, half-hearted way, or with that sudden explosive kee-uck! as he lifts his gold-lined wings in loping flight and leaves the scope of your eager vision by long voyage, over hill and dale, or a sudden plunge into the still green, but fading and dusty involucre of fruit or shade tree. And the robin, that homely but beautiful favorite of old and young, has become a skulker and shows himself but infrequently, and even then with a wariness that belongs to this sweetest of all of spring's sweet harbingers only in the declining days of summer. And his voice, so full of rollicking melody in the early summer, is now but a harsh, sharp, peremptory chirp.

The upland plover lingers, but yet in sparse numbers, as though the greedyguts of the family were loth to give up the bounteous feast of fat grasshoppers. But the few that remain in defiance of their migratory laws, seldom sound that thrilling tinkling triplet with which he heralded his coming in the ides of July, when the golden rod's tall stalks were unfolding their topaz plumes. After nightfall, however, in the chill of the upper shadows, may occasionally be caught his plaintive signalling to other loiterers, as it falls from his aerial path, where he wends his dizzy, but belated way off to the rosier climes of the langnorous south. The beezeek! of the night hawk has long been hushed as has the shrill monotony of cricket and August piper.

The woodland thrush, the busy oriole, still in his brilliant of velvet and orange, and the furtive catbird's flute and bells have also ceased to breathe, and chime, up, even along the matted hillsides of the legendary Old River Road, and only the resolute indigo bird and wood pewee keep up their pensive carillon of other days, which well fit in with all the seeping sounds of declining summer. Oh, yes, early in the morning and late in the evening, the red bird may now and then be heard piping his elfin horn.

In my regular Sunday jaunt up the old trail, just a week ago, all I saw from my cushions in the tonneau was countless myriads of swallows, strung like beads along the telephone wires, a turtle dove or two, a solitary cheewink skirting the thick brushwood along marshe's border, one flicker, a dotted line of traveling ducks high up and far out over the river, and perchance a hardy warbler or two and a number of jangling jays.

Autumn days!

Ponca creek trails its attenuated thread out of the woodland to gild its shallow ripples with the mellowest of sunshine and to redden them with the inverted flames of the long dagger-shaped sumach leaves and the ragged cardinals that still blaze on its sedgy brinks.

Here, among the mirey and mucky shore line splotches of Kelly's lake, the seal-coated muskrat prowls with her full grown offspring, not yet quite worthy of the farmer boy's trapping skiff, but tending rapidly toward it, with full feasts of succulent roots and tender swampy tubes and tendrils.

Here, too, the raccoon prowling down from the black woods along the ridges, sets the hand-like print of his footsteps in the agglutinative shores as he stays his stomach with speckled frogs, impounded minnows and aquatic larvae, the while keeping his appetite on edge with the hot sauce of wapato and Indian turnip.

The killdeer skulk along all the wet ways reaching out among flaring crow's foot and aromatic ginseng, gilly flower and cock, and when he leaps to flight, it is with much stronger wings than when a month ago he had shed the last of his winter coat.

All along the tall ridges the trees are almost black with ripened leafage, and out of the twilight of their confines glow the declining disks of wild sunflowers and gleam the rising constellation of the hardy asters. Down across the road the meadow sides are jaunty with the unshorn fringe of lobelia, primrose and willow herb, and here in the crannies and on the hillocks, on their sturdy stalks, are still clusters of alderberries, though now desiccated into a crisp and crumbly brown, upon whose still nutritious seeds the flocking robins and other birds stealing from the shadowed copses along the belt of shade, cram their crops.

And the quail, young and old together, leave the tall grass and furzy cover for the nipped pasture lands in the mornings, when the dew drops from every emerald ribbon and the atmosphere is sharply impregnated with the vigor of autumn.

Once more the good old summer time is on the wing, flowers are fading and the birds all crying in tattering notes of goodbye, and while we, the lovers of all the great outdoors in times of stress and peace, regretfully mark the decline of golden days, we remember with thrills of expectation, that they are only sloping into even the more golden days of autumn, wherein the farmer garners his fullest harvest, the sportsman his first bag of chicken and wild fowl and that to him who waits come all things, and even though he waits long, may come the best. The fall's gleam will quickly pass, as will the blur of winter, and then once more we will hear the glad jubilate of the great springtime.

Related Images: