NATURE NARRATIVES: September changes

By Melissa Walker
       Early September - still and quiet. Such a change from midsummer when the natural world took advantage of the longest days of the year. Just a few weeks ago, robins constantly patrolled the grass looking for food for their hungry nestlings, and spotted towhees seemed to sing all day long. Now, all the nestlings have grown up, and the birds no longer wake us up before dawn with their bubbly songs. Though warm weather still lingers, the change in bird behavior signals that summer days are fleeting and fall is already beginning.

A blazing star flower getting attention from a pollinating bee.
Courtesy of Melissa Walker

       Yellow and purple are the colors of early September. Traces of yellow are emerging in the deep green leaves of summer. Dotting the hillsides of Sondermann Park are two late-blooming wildflowers - bright yellow golden aster and purple blazing star. Although they look quite different, they are actually in the same composite flower family, commonly called the Sunflower family.
       A close look at the blazing star reveals that several tiny purple flowers are crowded together like a tight bouquet and bound by light green sepals. These compacted "composite" flower heads attract many pollinating bees and other insects. The seeds will soon set before colder temperatures bring autumn's first frost.
       As I walk slowly through the wild edges of our open space park, I am contemplating these changes and transitions. Then, a flickering shadow shades my eyes and patterns my sleeve. For a moment, I am in the shadow of a butterfly. For only a moment.

Walker, a long-time area naturalist, posts regular entries in her online blog at She has given her permission to reprint selected pieces in the Westside Pioneer.