The all too brief season of gold is passing quickly. As the green of the past summer drains away, the brilliant yellows and oranges are revealed and light up the still lush, but fast fading leaves. Rushing headlong into autumn, the landscape glowing with the colors of flame and ember, the marsh will not long keep the vibrant hues.
Already some trees have faded to brown, some have had their leaves stripped by autumn winds. Indeed, each gust of wind is full of leaves whirling down like rain. The blaze of color passes quickly. The prairies have their gold, too, and are full of seeds, many of them flying flags of silken fluff, riding the same breezes that are tearing down the leaves.
As with every autumn, Nahant Marsh is an important rest stop along the Mississippi flyway. This bit of habitat surrounded by city has never failed to host a great many geese and other migrating waterfowl in all years I’ve visited. Flocks of geese come every year. All sorts of water loving birds come.
In spite of the rail yard, the interstate highway, the heavy industry, every autumn they still come to rest awhile and feed. Each fine golden morning, flocks of travelers stop by the many watery channels and ponds of the marsh. Each gray rainy morning they are there, too.
Grays and silvery browns will soon replace the ember-bright colors of the brief season of gold. Already many of them have been cleared away as the leaves fall and the gold winks out like embers falling to ash. Winter is not far away. The last of the gold and the warm is passing.
The fine, warm days of summer at Nahant Marsh seemed to stretch in endless perfection, full of sun, full of fish, full of prairies bursting with flowers and seeds. But all summer the light has been arriving a few minutes later and departing a few minutes earlier. The tipping point to autumn has come, and the dark will now outlast the daylight. A few minutes more of night will be added each day forward.
The change is slow and subtle. The days are still so fine and warm, who would notice just a few minutes less light? Yet the change is undeniable. The gold of this year’s autumn is already peeking out from under the veil of this year’s green. Already the nights have been cool, even chilly. A reminder of cold nights to come.
In these fine, warm days, a great many birds have been coming to the marsh. Not all of them are youngsters raised at Nahant, there are far too many for them to have all been born here. They come for the food and rest. They come singly, in pairs, in flocks to stay awhile then depart. The migration along the Mississippi flyway has begun. What you will see at any given time is hard to say, and can change daily, even hourly.
This year’s babies have grown into adult size and learned intricacies of flight and food catching. Swallows and swifts fly dizzying acrobatics over the water snatching insects out of the air. A young heron who caught a fish too large to swallow quickly, took his prize into cover, where he could maneuver it into swallowing position with less chance of being noticed by potential thieves.
These are fine, warm days, with bluebird skies and heat still in the forecast. But the tipping point has come, and a few minutes at a time, dark will take the daylight. Soak up the warm and light while you can, and keep an eye out for bird travelers making their rest stop at Nahant Marsh.