Nature Notes: Grin and Bear It

    The leaves are falling. It’s cold. No Indian summer this trip around the sun. No doubt a frigid winter is in store. As Eric Salzman reports in his daily blog, each spate of outlandish weather brings us a new spate of birds from the north. First it was the yellow-rumped warblers. Then, it was the white-throated sparrows. The robins are gathering around rain puddles along the roads as they contemplate leaving. What next?
    The nights have turned quiet except for the wind. The tree crickets have put down their instruments. The few katydids still singing are now baritones, bordering on basso, the “katys” slow and slurred. The ants have gone back into the ground. No flowers to attract bees. The frost is on the pumpkins. Prepare for a long winter.
    Fortunately for some of the birds that will be staying through the cold, there is a good supply of cedar berries, bayberries, winterberry holly berries, and holly berries. They will suffice for cedar waxwings, robins, bluebirds, catbirds, and true snowbirds, the grosbeaks, crossbills, and juncos. On the other hand, it’s not a good acorn year. Turkeys, deer, and blue jays will suffer. Landscapes and their cultivars will have a hard time of it.
    It’s been a near-record year thus far for precipitation. Most of the local ponds are overbrimming. You may have noticed that the muskrats are abandoning their water-filled holes and once again building thatched huts in the ponds that dot Napeague lowlands — a telltale sign of prevailing high water tables.
    Global warming may be afoot, but it’s happening in fits and spurts, not in a nicely predictable, smoothly upsloping line on the temperature graphs. It’s as if Mother Nature has a deep cough and she spends as much time hacking as presiding peacefully over her flock. The oil and gas men will profit, half of us will go to Florida and other points south, the remainder will try to grin and bear it.
    Elections are upon us. The ranks of the politicians grow. The number of lawyers among them increases. The two things they can never reform are human nature and the weather. A thick blanket of insulation above and old movies on the telly below are one way to make it through to spring. And, oh yes, keep a snow shovel handy and watch out or you might slip and break your neck on the black ice.
    God was kind to the chipmunk, ground hog, turtles, and frogs. He caused them to hibernate and pass the winter safe and sound underground. Not we humans. We were designed for higher destinies, but destined also to be uncomfortable and in occasional bad spirits along the way. Bah, humbug.