The green heron! How about that? Saw him a few minutes ago high up near the top of a Norway pine, after hearing his kuck-kuck for some minutes and trying to spot him. It actually took his flying off to see him.

We’ve heard him in that same spot high up in the pines for several years now. The green heron makes a rough nest in the tops of pines such as these. Hearing him repeatedly in that same location makes one wonder if he might be nesting there.

This is the bird I mentioned several years ago, because we heard him in that same location when we visited this area in February, but we couldn’t spot him. I asked some experts about this, and they said, “No. It’s a wading bird. Not in February.” However, their own Christmas bird count had included the great blue heron. City lagoons are often still open in sub-freezing weather, so, why not have the green heron as well?

A correction for last week: the aster I saw was actually the  broad-leaved aster, with the light lavender hue to its blossom. The foliage on the stem of the plants is very much broad-leafed, which characterizes it.

If you will pardon a little indecorous language, the plant experts like to remark that when folks are caught in the woods without the proper supplies along with them, they find a ready substitute by using these leaves for toilet paper. So there you have it. You never know what botany will teach you. And you have a lovely flower to go along with it.

The woods are quieter today. We enjoy a cloudless sky with a warm sunshine, after a period of cool September weather, so perhaps the creatures are basking a bit in the warm sun.

A few distant sounds come to me. The heron gives forth with his kuck-kuck off to my right in the distance. A pileated woodpecker hammers away on something in the distance to my left.

A small mosquito lands on the back of my writing hand, wanders around a bit in search of something interesting, and then flies off (which is a bit insulting). He has that torpor you see in insects when cool weather seems to gel their juices and make them a bit sluggish.

There is something  special about this season. The woods still sport the green of summer, but you can smell fall in the air.

The first yellowing of autumn leaves begins to show here and there on the poplars. All the plants that produce seeds still have an abundance of their fruit on them, as small as that “fruit” may be in this part of the world. It will be there to feed the creatures that will make this their home this winter. I pulled a cluster of hazelnuts off a nearby bush to my left. The flowering dogwood lifts its clusters of tiny fruits for me to see to my right. The food is ready for the winter creatures.

James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.


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