While there is still plenty of hot, muggy weather ahead, the first signs of autumn are evident across Missouri. Of course, the days are noticeably shorter and, as a result, the mornings bring a welcome chill. Our lawns, growing at a slower pace, are now littered with the first crop of walnuts and, except for the cardinals and Carolina wrens, most birds have settled into their late summer conversation of subdued trills and chirps.
Out in the country, blackbirds and mourning doves are gathering in larger flocks and mixed groups of swallows and bluebirds gather on power lines. The purple and yellow wildflowers of late summer now adorn the fields while swaths of Queen Anne's lace border our country roads. Wetlands, devoid of heavy rain for the past few weeks, are beginning to dry out, their amphibian and reptilian residents now more visible from lakeside trails; in concert, the growing mudflats host an increasing number and variety of migrant shorebirds.
Within a few weeks, nighthawks will be drifting to the south and the risk of summer heat will fade with the greenery. Meanwhile, the fiddlers are scratching in the night, the sun in dropping lower in the southern sky and the itch for college football distracts our wandering minds. The glorious season of autumn is just around the bend!