A group of red-tailed hawks circle and soar in the sky above and to my right. There seems to be nearly a dozen of them. I hesitate to call them a flock, because I’ve never known red-tails to flock.

They have appeared thus for several weeks now. What is causing them to gather? I’ve rarely known them to appear except singly or in pairs.

Is some food source attracting them? I know we are being invaded by rabbits this year. If you are walking about in the city, you have to be careful not to step on one, especially young ones who haven’t yet developed a healthy fear of humans.

The Harris sparrow appears again this fall, with his dull yellow cheek. I often hear his call note in the tall grass before I see him. He is maddening to spot and watch. He dives down into tall grass and must travel out of sight, for I often don’t see him take fight again.

What is also maddening is that he often sends out this kind of whistle call note, so I know he is around, but I can’t see him. This place has plenty of tall grass among the trees, so he finds it easy to conceal himself. He must be finding some good feeding in those areas.

These tall grass areas in the woods rather fascinate me for the haven they offer for birds and animal life, havens that we can mostly only surmise.  They seem to provide a surprising amount of shelter. The grasses are tough, and when autumn comes and they turn brown — some even remaining green over the winter, they bend over and intertwine into a shelter of a kind of wigwam quality. Snow can fall on them and, over time, pile up and seal the shelter into a haven that wouldn’t get below 32 degrees. I would surmise that a whole world of life could live there throughout the winter.

The weather has turned what you would call inclement. It’s raining. Fortunately I’ve come prepared with an umbrella. I knew I was taking a risk, climbing over the dike and coming down by the Red River today.

An overcast of nimbostratus clouds greeted me today. Rain held off in fairly mild temperatures for several hours. Finally I began to see occasional rain drops on my pages, and I knew it was time to put up my umbrella. Now the rain is steady.

So it looks as if it is time for me to fold up. The rain is offering a little break. I fold up my woolly chair. I say goodbye for today to the willows and ashes and autumn long grasses.

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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