Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ah, autumn

Fall is one of the most relaxing seasons -- and most beautiful. It's definitely the best time for squirrel watching and photographing since there are so many squirrels gathering nuts for winter. Deer are extra shy because hunting season is coming up. It is time for raking leaves into piles so you can just jump into them afterward, for wearing jeans and light jackets. All of the maple trees are turning colors varying from bright yellow to blood red.

Why do leaves change colors anyway? Someone asked the same question in the October 2006 issue of Ranger Rick. In spring and summer, trees use chlorophyll to make their food. It also gives leaves their green color. When fall comes, the trees begin to close down their food-making systems. At the same time, they start living on the stored food they've already created. The chlorophyll disappears from their leaves. When the green fades away, you can see the other colors. Some colors, like yellow and orange (specifically maples change to these colors) have been there all along. Others usually change to brown in the fall.

This fall, I'm seeing something that I've never seen before. A blue jay (Cyanocitta cristata) collecting for winter. It took my family and I only days to figure it out. It was odd when we would sit down for breakfast or lunch and see a blue jay flying by the back deck every five to ten minutes. I discovered that it was going between the trees in the front yard too. But specifically, it was obviously gathering in the Shagbark Hickory tree twenty feet from my bedroom window. Looking at them closely through binoculars, they're going for the hickory nuts. They peck at them until they fall to the ground. Blue jays are beautiful sky ornaments. But their call is a dreadful one. I figured out that the very distractive screeching call came from the blue jay a few months ago when I saw it cawing in one of the pasture's trees. Here's a sample from All Birds. They're actually pretty aggressive birds. Especially a female nesting. If a human goes anywhere near a female's nest, the blue jay is actually known for attacking the two-legger. If a bird roosts anywhere near the nest, the blue jay will attack it until it chooses another place to roost. Its personality is like a crow, right? Then it'll be no surprise to hear that the blue jay is actually part of the Corvidae family which is the same family as the crow. If you look closely to the blue jay's face, you'll see that the crow's beak and the blue jay's beak look almost identical (unfortunately, I don't have a picture of a blue jay since I can't get close enough). It's pretty unbelievable what's under the prettiest feathers.

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