is role reversal at its finest - my daughter fishes and I
sit. Her casts arc across the still waters of Warner Lake,
and occasionally I am asked to help unsnarl her line. Otherwise,
Im free to play in the dirt.
From my chair
I can pick up several nearby aspen leaves to examine them
up-close. Shaped like squat pumpkins with saw-blade edges,
most of them bear the yellow signatures of fall. A few are
dotted with spots of green or red, cells of chlorophyll that
are in different stages of demise.
I roll the leaf
stem between my thumb and index finger and can easily see
why these leaves are called trembling aspens.
The long petiole acts like a wand allowing the leaf blade
to tremble in even the lightest
breeze. The plants scientific name bears this image,
for Populus means of the populace and tremuloides
Across the lake,
the golden hillside is interrupted by an occasional stab of
evergreen - a spruce or fir tree that has grown up in the
shadow of these aspens. What a stark contrast these evergreens
are to the clown-white bark of the aspens. These spruce and
firs represent the next successional stage of the forest,
the transition from pioneering aspen to coniferous forest.
Growing up in the shade of the aspens, these evergreens have
the patience of a fisherman.
use my binoculars to scan the ridge above Gold Knob. I do
not know if there is a mineral connection to the name, but
today it seems appropriately named for this seasonal event.
A red-tailed hawk floats along the ridge line, catching thermals
or updrafts to keep it aloft. Perhaps the bird is a migrant,
as many raptors and small passerines use the updrafts off
of these peaks to propel them on their southern sojourn. I
add redtail to my mental list which already includes golden
eagle, American kestrel, Townsends and black-throated
gray warbler, mountain chickadees, American robin, Stellars
jay, and ring-necked duck.
The ducks are also fishing. They float around the far edge
of the lake, safe from wayward casts. The ducks are after
aquatic plants, small invertebrates and perhaps small fish.
They bounce back to the surface at the end of their dive with
water droplets sliding off their backs like autumn cares.
Ah, the mountains in September.
the morning progresses, so does my bird list. Swifts and swallows
appear like rush hour traffic, picking off insects as the
birds zoom across the lake. These birds must be migrants,
their insectivorous diet driving them southward.
birds are joined by a handful of dragonflies that are coursing
around the lake edge also in search of small flying insects.
Once called the devils darning needles dragonflies
have had to shake their bad-boy image from an uniformed public.
Tales of babies being bitten in their sleep or of poisons
located in the tip of the dragonflys tails have did
not endear these voracious mosquito and midget eaters to the
general populace. But, consider the benefits of a single adult
dragonfly that can consume around 300 mosquitos a day.
Finally, my daughter
is done fishing. I have been sorely tempted to use the Can
we go now? whine, but I dont want to spoil the
ambiance of this morning. My wife and I both know that our
daughter can easily entertain herself outside when she is
waiting for us, picking up leaves and playing in the dirt
like her dad.