Snowflakes In Fall

It seems that autumn is upon us. Last Monday, when Mattie and I opened the front door to walk to school, she yelled out, ‘It’s freezing!’ and rushed for her hoodie. In fact, it was probably only in the late 60s, but having been used to morning temperatures well into the 80s throughout the last 2 months, it did feel pretty cool.
The first signs of autumn occurred a couple of weeks ago, when large flurries of seeds from our Texas ash began to fall onto the back garden and pool. At times, the seeds resemble large, golden-brown snowflakes, and there have been veritable drifts of them on the patio, causing much exasperation from Mike who has been extracting them from the pool filter.
Fall in San Antonio is lovely. Mike noted this week that the light is different: the sky is a deeper, clearer blue and everything seems to enjoy a golden tinge. With the lower temperatures, we are not so reliant on air conditioning, keeping our patio doors open for most of the day, which means that I now can hear those noisy cicadas, and chattering squirrels, from the kitchen. There are more butterflies around now. In our garden I spotted the beautifully-marked orange Monarch butterfly, millions of which will fly through Texas to northern Mexico over the next couple of months. And along the creek, situated a short drive from our house, are other varieties, some with large flapping wings of pale apricot; others are lemon or shimmering black and midnight blue.
Several pathways run in and about the creek. Slightly undulating and stony in places, these pathways enjoy dappled shade from mesquite, live oak, persimmon and juniper trees. All of San Antonio’s creeks are stone dry except when there is a rainfall and then they rapidly fill up. We are lucky here to have avoided the drought that has affected much of the US. During my walk along the creek this morning, I came across a pond sheltered by a high bluff, and startled a bright-red crested cardinal, as well as a family of five white-tailed deer that cocked their heads at me through the tall grasses before running away. I stayed a while to observe the bright-orange and scarlet dragonflies hovering over the pond – Texas has the largest variety of dragonflies in the US, as well as the largest bird population in the world, many of which use the state as a stopover whilst migrating north or south. I have to brush up on my knowledge of south Texas birds, though during my walk I did recognize a humming bird hovering above the scarlet blossom of a scarlet Turk’s Cap shrub; white-winged doves; a mocking bird; and a flurry of lemon-yellow breasted warblers. But the pair of larger, clay-coloured birds sporting burnt-orange stripes on their wings will have to await a check on the internet for me to find out what they were.
Earlier in the summer, I was thrilled to see a large red-shouldered hawk sitting nonchalantly on a rock before me. At that time of year, the vegetation is more colourful, with wildflowers in abundance. Even now there still remains the odd splash of shocking-pink mallow blossom, and clumps of Texas lavender which look particularly lovely set against golden daisies and the prickly pear cactus, now bearing its maroon-coloured fruit. What I particularly love at this time of year are the grasses; the most common variety in this particular creek sports beige-coloured seeds which dangle daintily in the breeze, reminding me of tiny Christmas trees.

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