Like it or not, fall is in the air. This year we seem to be hanging on to the hot, muggy weather later than we used to, but today is grey and cool and feels more like a Labour Day weekend. This kind of weather causes me to have flashbacks to childhood where the Labour Day weekend was our last bit of freedom before school started back and yet we’d always be curled up in front of the tv watching the Jerry Lewis Muscular Distrophy telethon. Funny what you remember about childhood….
This Labour Day my thoughts turn to the changes we witness at this time of year – the temperatures (usually) cool off, the winds pick up, bringing with them a certain chill in the air, and the Goldenrod and Purple Loosestrife flowers loose their vibrance as their blooms wither and are replaced by seeds. But soon, the fall-blooming mauve New England Asters will bloom, to provide us with the last burst of colour before the drabness of late fall settles in.
The first real sign of fall, for me, is the sight of the first trees who’s leaves have already begun to lose their vibrant chlorophyll-green colour and instead take on the hues of those warmer colours – the red, oranges and yellows of the dying leaves. This year, there is another sign that I have paid more attention to. I think it’s partly because we live out in the country and partly because this fall, I’m more in tune with the environment around me, for a number of reasons.
For me, a definite sign of the approach of fall is signaled by our feathery friends. Birdlife around our place has been unusually quiet these past few weeks. I think it’s that fall came early. Not due to temperatures, but due to the drought we are experiencing. Around here, the forest is very, very dry. Most of our wetlands completely dried up this year. As a result, the forests and wetlands around here became eerily quiet far earlier than they normally would. I guess the animals are off looking for greener pastures, literally. So the other day, when I saw two young birds flying back and forth across our front lawn, swooping down to catch grasshoppers and other late summer insects, I took note. They were two of the few birds still hanging around. But these guys were new. They had just shown up. I got my binos out to take a look. To me, they looked like flycatchers, but I wasn’t sure which kind. They looked more brown than the species I thought they were. Luckily, these little guys seemed happy to play in our front yard, even with me out in it, so I grabbed my 600 mm lens and out I went.
A recently fledged Least Flycatcher
Waiting until one of them perched on a bare branch on a nearby tree, I crept up with my gear, inching closer for a better shot. Eventually, I got pretty close before they decided that was close enough and flew off. But I did get a few good shots. And from what I can tell, these are recently fledged Least Flycatchers. The identification guides I’ve read say that the jeuveniles tend to be brown above and a bit yellow on the tummy. Yup, that fits the bill. They were quite vocal so I listened carefully and then compared their song against those on my iPod. Yup, Least Flycatchers.
I love how scruffy this little guy looks. It’s like he only partially blow-dried his hair and still has a bit of that wet look going on. And you can see the outer wing covers, which still look small and dark, compared to the adults.
Despite the dearth of birds around our place, every few days a few new ones show up. Yesterday there was a pair of warblers flitting back and forth, from tree to tree, in the forest next to the house. It seemed to be a female Black-throated Green Warbler and a Black and White Warbler. The two flitted and hopped from branch to branch, together, in unison. One of the things that I’ve noticed, is that this time of year, you’ll see many more mixed species flocks. As they begin their journey south, different species tend to hang out together. It probably has to do with safety in numbers.
Black-throated Green Warbler
Black and White Warbler
So, the fall migration is clearly underway. It makes me a bit sad. And I wonder how I’ll survive the winter without the ton of opportunities that spring and summer present, for bird photography. I’m sure I’ll find days to go out and photograph the Bluejays, Nuthatches, Chickadees, and Juncos that frequent our feeders in winter. But it’s just not the same – not like spring where the air is alive with birdsong, to the point where it’s hard to isolate a song because there’s so much ‘chatter’ in the air. I’m actually one of the few people who seems to like cold, snowy winters. So I don’t mind winter. But I will miss the birds and the photo opportunities they present. I guess I’ll just have to make the effort to get out lots this winter, in search of owls.