a childhood saved

A Naturalist's Notebook

When I was 14-15 years old, I wrote a series of 23 essays as a weekly assignment for my high school English class. I called the series "A Naturalist's Notebook." Naturalist's Notebook Table of Contents

Autumns Past: October 2, 1973

As I look over my nature log book, which I started in 1971, I am always interested in what has happened in the seasons of the past few years. Each entry brings back fond (or not so fond) memories of bygone days.

On September 8, 1971, the swimming lake near our house was drained. The process took a few days, because it is a large lake. It was drained because some work had to be done on the dam that spreads out on the west side of the lake. In the two months that the lake was drained, I found evidence of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and other creatures that absolutely amazed me. The first tracks I found were, of course, those of the raccoon. Frog tracks were found, and the tracks of a mammoth snapping turtle—fully 12 inches wide—were found. Crayfish tracks were scattered about in the mud.

One morning, I finally found the hoof-marks of a deer. Fox tracks followed frog tracks and rabbit tracks the next day. Killdeer, smallish robin-sized birds, were spotted. Wood ducks spent several morning hours in the little amount of water left in the lake.

Back on November 6, 1971, we had our first frost. Contrast this to 1972, where we had it on October 2nd! November 9th of '7 had a temperature of 21°F, while on October 20th, 1972 it was 26°F. The first snow fell on November 10, 1971, but it fell on October 19th in 1972.

One October 3rd, 1972, three wood ducks entered our lake. By October 5th, there were 10 in all plus one male mallard. Also on October 5, I saw a great blue heron. On October 9th there were 24 wood ducks! The "woodies" were there, incidentally, to the 21st. October 17th, our first slate-colored junco of the season arrived. On the 19th, day of the first snow, I saw a flock of ruby-crowned kinglets. Finally, on October 31, I saw a huge flock of spectacular evening grosbeaks and some pine siskins.

Many, many things can be remembered by keeping a log of the important things that happen. And as I look over the notes of last year, and the year before that, and as I am writing those notes down here, I am always asking the question to myself, "What is going to happen this autumn?"

Next: "Autumn at Brinton Brook Sanctuary," October 10, 1973