The autumn woods are a busy place with many hurried creatures, some collecting food for their winter stores while others are feeding nonstop.
A small number of loud and colorful blue jays are caching acorns nearby, dropping down to the ground in the middle of a thicket to hide their prizes.
A noisy blue jay suddenly appears on a branch, calling out to the other jays, even while an acorn is held in its beak and before continuing to the caching spot.
Larger than a robin with quite beautiful gray, blue and black feathers, the blue jay is a marvelous presence in the autumn woods. Even at some distance, their urgent sounding calls of “thief, thief, thief” echo out through the pastel palette on a cool morning in the changing woods.
Fox sparrows, kinglets, and hermit thrushes are feeding on and under the still thick green understory, hunting those hiding places of insects and worms for the much needed energy that is required by those little migrants. The fox sparrow will spend the winter in these woods, and others are on their southbound migration to a warmer winter climate.
A little red squirrel, a tenacious 7 ounce defender of its territory, chatters loudly at the jays as it moves across a limb of a downed tree in some thick brush.
The red squirrels will always cache more than they need for the winter, probably forgetting some of their hiding places.
Science will say that the little squirrels are inadvertently spreading the seeds of new growth throughout the woods because of the forgotten caches, but I like to believe that those thrifty little squirrels know exactly what they are doing, and we all can take a lesson in stewardship from their behavior.
The days are growing shorter now, and the late afternoon hints at another setting sun as the autumn woods become shadowed and the filtered light grows dim. The unmistakable bugles of a small flock of sandhill cranes flying low overhead hurrying to a grassy pasture for the night are the sounds of another day coming to an end in a Midwestern autumn woods.