Skies are a little bluer, nights a little edgier. Woodlands a little more garish. The deer have switched from auburn to a somber grey/brown. Gold Finches are not gold any longer.
This change has to happen. As it has since…well…time has been time. The last drops of summer are being rung from this tilty ol’ planet Earth. I guess things like life itself would get pretty messed up if that big ol’ sun never left the equator.
It’s not an over night thing. It’s starts well before the first yellow leaves or frost, but in more subtile ways that go unnoticed by most. To a farmer it’s when they detect the first signs of soybeans turning. To a pet owner, a little more hair bunnies under the kitchen table. To teachers it’s the back to school ads. We all have our clues.
Yet the subtlest happens near the end of July or early August. Those that live on the land and with land can sense it. One needs your ears and peripheral vision and a keen sense of what’s happening, near and far.
First signs are the quiet mornings, Only leaves rustling, a few crows and ravens calling and occasionally a Bluejay. Even the stalwart loons have even quieted. They are here but seldom heard.
The reverse is the Canada Geese that have quadrupled their raucous repertoire. They arrive at dark, then begin goose squabbling like middle-schoolers in a lunch room with a loose puppy. This cacophony goes through the night and ends around daybreak. You would think they would need their rest for the continental flight that is forthcoming.
Though the carnival decked woodlands seem bereft of most birdlife, this is when your peripheral vision kicks in. You catch furtive movements and darting about, then when you turn to see, there is nothing there. If you wait silently and stand motionless, they reveal themselves ever so slowly. In late August, it’s the neo-tropical warblers on the march.
They filter through in reverse order from their springtime progression when they were heading north. Those that came through last in May are first to head south in August. Like wealthy Canadians they will spend their winter basking on a Caribbean Island or the coast of Mexico and Central America.
They have abandoned their prim and proper courting clothes of spring, and donned camouflaged fatigues like snipers creeping through the understory. One is now dealing with young of the year, and eclipsed parents. They together have another name…LBB. Little Brown Birds.
Next to come through are the sparrows and thrushes, LBB and LBBBB’s. Little brown birds and a Little Bit Bigger Brown Birds. The exception of course is the Robin. Robins look like Robins, and they are never in hurry to move south.
Then the Flickers arrive. Always dressed to impress, but more in a clownish way. Through the summer months one may see one or maybe a pair, yet mid-fall they cover the ground with dozens and dozens of brethren, looking for ants.
All this takes about 4 months to transpire. Then as the understory drop their cloaking leaves, the progression dribbles to a few.
Now what about that bizarre heading of this post? Well, two mornings ago my wife called up from downstairs as she looked out the large picture window at her hosta garden. “What’s that on the ground?” She said in a manner that belied the fact that she already knew the answer. I donned my binoculars and focussed on the three dark animated blobs. They were here…The Juncos! Damn!
Then as I snuck out on the elevated deck for a keener look. I caught a small movement in the nearby Red Pine. There flitting to and fro like a commuter whose lost their car keys and it’s 7:45 a.m. It’s a Golden- Crowned Kinglet. One of my favorite birds to view. Yet it’s somewhat depressing at the same time. Dare I say it? The first snows will surely follow them. Sigh
The Juncos & Kinglets are the tail end of the circus parade that is passing through our little park on Child lake. As we all know in a real circus parade, the large grey pachyderms are almost last in that parade…followed by the unheralded clean-up crew with brooms and shovels.
Hardly elephants, but the Kinglets and Juncos are usually the last migrants of the season. Many will hangout for a bit, until one morning, flakes will swirl around their pantaloons and they will ride the currents south.
As I put down my empty coffee mug. I stared at the gathering throng on the yard below and the nearby trees. I got up, put on a thicker jacket, and went outside, saw my breath, and started looking for my scoop shovel and push broom.