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Greenpoint: Of birds, bugs, bees and a couple of frogs

Greenpoint: Of birds, bugs, bees and a couple of frogs

Still summer and already fall, all at the same time

The songbirds have gone south, and they’ve been replaced in the chorale by crickets and grasshoppers, chirping and creaking all morning, all day, all night. We see them in the garden, in the yard and in the house.

Our friend Sophie used to say whenever she saw and heard the first crickets of the year: That means it’s going to be a hard winter. OK, we thought, or else it means it’s September.

It’s September. Still summer and already fall, all at the same time. The songbirds may be hanging out in my daughter’s neighborhood in Brooklyn, on their way to Florida, but the hawks and owls are still here, hooting and screeching in the woods and above the clearings, swooping and diving across the lake, across the highway. My carpool buddy and I saw a bald eagle flying over the Northway around Latham last week, and wondered how many others in our traffic jam looked up to see it. My dog and I saw another, diving for birds on the lake near our house.

The garden is full of butterflies — monarchs and swallowtails, flitting from flower to flower — and I’m happy I planted so many zinnias in the vegetable garden. Honeybees and solitary bees like the zinnias too, and the purple flowers on the turnips, mint and oregano. They’re gathering late-season nectar for their winter stockpiles.

Our two frog friends are still hanging around — Mr. Weddy, a bullfrog who lives in a rain tank behind the front flower garden, and new fellow, a gray tree frog. We discovered that one about a week ago, sitting on one of the enormous, flat leaves of the philodendron that is summering on the roof over the back porch. It looks like an arboreal lily pad, and the frog seems quite satisfied with it. He hasn’t moved in days.

Eventually both the frogs will make their winter burrows in a swampy part of the back woods and sleep until April. The crickets and grasshoppers won’t make it that long: They lay eggs before they die off, and their offspring carry on the cycle in the spring. Some of the hawks migrate, but the eagles stay here all winter, as do most of the owls. Some of the tundra birds will show up in the winter, since even our climate is more temperate than theirs.

The ducks and geese are still on the lake, but it’s only a matter of weeks before they start their noisy migrations south.

Fall is a good time for watching the animals, whether mammal, insect or bird. Up here, with the summer folk gone, the pace is slower and as the foliage begins dying back it’s easier to see into the woods. The edges of our road are full of turkey poults and young deer, chipmunks and squirrels, grouse and small owls. And, if you look closely enough, frogs and toads.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Sept. 29. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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