Geese by the hundreds fly by Nahant Marsh in November. In loose formations, in large flocks and small, they come to the marsh to set down and rest awhile. Sometimes on sullen gray water roughed by a cold wind, sometimes in still blue water like they are floating on sky.
The brief blaze of autumn colors has faded into the brown and gray of late fall early winter. The green has drained almost completely away and remains only in the sheltered grassy places. The prairie plants have retreated into their roots, leaving dry stalks and shriveled leaves. Their strength lies below ground, where they wait for winter to pass before rising again. Most of the trees have withdrawn to inside themselves, too, abandoning their leaves. A few still have leaves clinging hopefully on, bright spots in the brown-gray, but soon they too will wink out. Winter has not even yet begun.
Artfully constructed nests, once so well concealed, are now in clear view. Many of the birds that made them have gone. It is much quieter in the prairie fields now that November is getting on. The insects have been silenced. Many of the birds that do stay, and those that have come to pass the winter such as flocks of dark eyed juncos, do not seem to have much to say.
November at Nahant Marsh sounds like geese. Great numbers of geese, speaking to each other in their ancient goose-talk, fly over the marsh during this late autumn time. Every day more come, preceded by their voices. They stay for a time, sometimes tucking head under wing for a good solid rest. Then, after a prelude of honking amongst themselves, they lift off again, with a great flapping and slapping of water, heading on down the flyway.
All the geese look mostly alike to me. I cannot tell them or their groups apart at all. There do seem to be family groups that join together into larger flocks, and small groups fly away from the big flock as pleases them. I don’t know how long any particular group or family stays before heading on. There does always seems to be a flock of geese on the marsh, no matter the arrivals and departures.
November is a melancholy time of late sunrises and early sunsets. The short daylight is slanted in from the south as the sun moves ever closer to solstice. There are still colors to be seen, though, and the ice is not yet upon us. Although many sounds of the marsh have been quieted, the sound of the geese can still be heard in this season, talking amongst themselves as they have for uncounted generations.