What Falls First

This is my front yard. The greens have changed to their late summer hues.

front lawn


One branch on one maple tree is always the first to let me know that fall is here.

maple leaf


Temperatures at night have been in the low 50s. Days have been warm. If this keeps up, it’s going to be a gloriously colored autumn.

The leaves aren’t falling yet, but feathers are. Like the trees, there’s always one that goes first.

Jasper has lost her tail.

tailess jasper


This isn’t a case of feather picking. This is how she greets the change in the seasons. I’ve collected all of her lovely Welsummer feathers from the floor of the coop.

tail feathers


They’re exactly what I need for my school visits, and I’ll use them when I talk about the differences between feathers and fur, and to teach the children how one should pet a bird. Jasper’s loss is my gain. She’ll have feathers again by winter – a full tail of them! – but the trees will be bare until spring.


  1. While I look forward to fall, my favorite time of the year, of cool sunny days, fall colors, pumpkins and no yard mowing, bush trimming, weed whacking etc. I do dread the long cold dark days of winter.

    Jasper looks kind of top heavy with no tail. ;-)

  2. This is our warmest season! Feathers are dropping anyway – What starts the drop if not day length or temperature?

    • All birds molt, even tropical birds. My guess is age, but I don’t know for sure. Any bird experts out there? Meanwhile, I’ll have to look into this interesting question.

      • I’m not a bird expert but I looked up molting on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and they say that “It takes a lot of energy to build new feathers. Molting is, therefore, often timed to coincide with periods of less strenuous demands, such as after nesting or before migration.” That sounds about right even though my BR Scarlett molted in January this year. She is just a nut.

        • Thanks, Christine. Since there are parts of the world that don’t have shorter days or changes in temperature, that makes sense.

        • You`re absolutely right! Birds must have very intact feathers, when they have to feed hungry chicks! They must be able to fly without stops! So it is when they`re going to migrate. They must be able to fly for hundreds of kilometres!! Than it will be ok, when their feathers are perfect!

  3. Sorry if this is off topic but I was wondering what food you feed the fish in the pond.

    • I’m not a koi expert – but what works here is the basic fish floating pellets sold at the plant nursery. The package says they’re right for goldfish and koi, and so far, so good. In the fall there’s a special mix for cold water. The fish don’t eat in the winter.

  4. Hi
    My gang of Muggers (white leghorns) are all moulting and off lay or laying softies. The others will no doubt follow in a few days.

    Our trees are slightly different here in UK. The first to go is Sycamore but our wood is mainly oak with trees in the region of 100 to 200 years old. They are always last to leaf up in spring and last to loose their leaves. The funniest time is when it snows early and the trees shed their leaves on the snow. Our days are getting shorter and much cooler. Down to 17 during the day and single figures at night. We are up in Yorkshire so colder than down south.

  5. Leaf fall and snow fall rarely coincide here. The biggest issue is that I haven’t raked before snowfall – and in the springtime there’s a mushy mess to deal with.

    • We learned the hard way to not leave raking till spring. We have so many trees that the leaves smothered the grass and left us with bare ground. Heavens, was that a mess!

  6. I love feathers of all kinds. I could keep chickens just for their tail feathers! :) And it’s ‘fight, fight’ between Nancy Drew and Beulah. I don’t know what it was they were scrapping over, but it must have been yummy. And I freely admit it made me smile to watch them chasing each other and doing a chicken version of tug ‘o war. :D