What is that … harbinger of winter?

Waddells

The sun is rising later and setting earlier at the cottage, as it is everywhere on our side of the equator.  No longer can we depend on the sun to wake us up in time for an early morning appointment.  No longer can we take a kayak ride after supper; it has had to be moved to before the meal even if the lake has not calmed down.

Just six months ago we rejoiced at the sight of a wee, spotted fawn with her mother.  Now we smile, with some trepidation, when we see how that fawn has darkened to its autumn camouflage colours.  We hope, we hope, we hope the camouflage works.

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The leaves have turned colour and are falling; now they need to be raked.  The woodpile is growing with recently split firewood.  Even at the cottage the work never ends.  Still, there is plenty of time to pause and send encouraging thoughts to the juvenile loons which were here until October 19th, strengthening their wing muscles for their long, solo flights to points south.  This juvenile common loon photograph was taken on October 12th; you can see it still carries some of the grey feathers of the juvenile.

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Hardly a day goes by without our noting a new indicator of the changing seasons.  Of course, there are the ubiquitous Vs of Canada geese; the woolybear caterpillars undulating their way across the road to whatever is better on the other side; and, the joy of seeing trumpeter swans as they set down briefly on the lake on their way south.  If we are really lucky and paying attention, we might spot a pie-billed grebe as it too heads south. This cutie was with us no longer than 24 hours late in September.

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The mourning cloak butterflies and the Compton tortoiseshell butterflies have poked around the seams of the porch and the cottage and found perfect crevasses in which to squeeze and overwinter.  And one day we awoke to a flock of dark-eyed juncos skittering about the yard as they looked for small insects and weed seeds to fuel their flight further south.  These juncos may have flown here from their James Bay and Hudson Bay summer range.  Some will continue on to Florida like many of our other two-legged friends.  At White Lake we are fortunate enough to see, from time to time, the dark slate-toned dark-eyed junco as well as the light grey morph of the same species.

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In addition to the many field guides we referred to earlier this year, for this article Aubrey Lang and Wayne Lynch’s book simply entitled Loons was very helpful.  It is a beautiful book too.