It's been nearly a year since I moved here, but this time, as autumn moves in, I know what to look for as the seasons change. The hummingbirds are long gone, as are the lazuli buntings. For a while, the house finch fledglings ate all the seeds in the feeders almost as soon as I refilled them, but this week, things seem quieter. Instead, the robin fledglings are poking around the yard, fully grown though dusty in color, picking through the regreening grass. A dark-eyed junco or two have been spotted, returning from Canada to their southern winter home. More red-breasted nuthatches and mountain chickadee-dee-dees have been hanging around, hopping back and forth between the trees and the feeders. Today a pair of northern flickers came down from the canopy and have been picking through the fallen leaves and berries from the Russian olive trees. House sparrows were pulling at the juniper bark and some kind of wood warbler peeked between the Russian olive leaves.
These are normal comings and goings, but I wonder what will be different this year now that word has gotten out about the bounty to be found here. What's different this week is the Steller's jay that has been sharing the feeders and hopping brazenly around the porch. It seems to have lost its way, since although I live in the foothills, my neighborhood is hardly like the higher elevation forests it usually calls home. Could all of the forest fires this year have chased it away, caused it to seek temporary shelter in an area with trees and guaranteed food? I wonder if it's here to stay, or whether it will return home when rain and snow extinguish the fires for good.