I love the word harbinger, which means a sign of things to come. It's the perfect word to identify the telltale signs of waning summer -- the harbingers of fall.
Not that summer is actually over. It's just that the feeling has changed. Darkness arrives earlier each night, woodland plants look weak, poison ivy is turning red and there is a sharpness in the chill of evening. Summer is slowly heading south.
This summer was no different than any other summer; it came and went before we knew it. One day you're in the midst of a family vacation and the next you see the maple tree down the road is turning red. It is interesting how some trees, usually maples, turn red or scarlet before other trees. Some faithfully proclaim that the leaves are turning earlier than ever this season. It is fun to think about, but leaves do change at almost the exact same time every year no matter what happens. Experts tell us it's the lowering angle of the sun rays (which is exactly predictable) that starts the process of color change. Factors like sharp, cool nights, moisture, and early frosts can enhance or detract autumn colors. But it's still the shortening days that make it happen.
Flocking waterfowl is one of the most visible harbingers of fall. After summer when we see few, if any flying ducks, young of the years birds are now learning to fly and adult bird's flight feathers are growing after the summer molt. Family groups start to leave small ponds and gather with other flocks on larger bodies of water as they begin pre-staging for the eventual migration.
The change of summer to fall is a bittersweet time for many. The season of brilliant blue skies, Indian Summer, vibrant leaves and the occasional perfect day is loved, but is too short. The change from autumn to winter is seldom gentle. It's typically abrupt and definite. But why think about that now? September has just started and there are several summer days left.
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