August is a lazy month, a time for laying in stores and building up layers of fat which will later be needed to fuel and insulate the metabolic furnaces which can never, even for one night, be allowed to go out. Farm dogs and psychiatrists, both of whom ought to know, simply take the month off.
Geese feeding in Canada’s summer bogs will build up seven times their normal body weight in fat, preparing for an odyssey which dwarfs, in magnitude and splendor if not in length, the flight of barn swallows.
By early September Canada Geese are moving from their summer grounds in northern Quebec. From Hudson Bay, and James Bay, and Mackenzie Bay – from Newfoundland and Labrador – the great flocks gather. Small at first, then swelling in number, some head west while others move south, following the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, joined now those soaring southeast from Ontario, filling the skies with formation after formation of great, honking leviathans whose wings beating the air can be heard a thousand feet below their ancient Atlantic Flyway.
As with the barn swallows: watch the stars, remember the stars. Keep the coast on your wing.
At dusk the great flocks appear overhead, and farmers, hearing the rush of wings, look up from their fields. Winter is at hand. Ice and snow have locked the northern marshes and are moving south in the wake of the geese.
A bobwhite announces its presence from across the field, but I don’t have time to talk. The seasons are turning, and I have my own preparations to make.