Wild lands and Autumn golds

Wild lands and autumn golds

“He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

It was the temperature change, it was summer, summer, summer and we knew it was coming, but those first cold gray days always eat into my soul, especially when it’s a weeks worth. With the warm came the colours, they didn’t wait for the gray and rain, it was glorious. The high winds have laid naked the small colourful trees as some of the giant maples remain green, it is odd. My mind wanders to travel, but not this Winter.

Those warm temperatures lulled me into a sense of timeless late Summer. It was so comfortable. A pair of trumpeter swans, named Graham and Joyce I was told were paddling around the bay one afternoon. Apparently, they are regulars at Long Lake but have been absent the last few years, it was wonderful to see these huge majestic birds up close as I paddled over. I sat in the canoe and watched them, not wanting to disturb them, they swam past an oasis of colours, reflections on the still-calm lake.

All about birds: Trumpeter Swans demand superlatives: they’re our biggest native waterfowl, stretching to 6 feet in length and weighing more than 25 pounds – almost twice as massive as a Tundra Swan. Getting airborne requires a lumbering takeoff along a 100-yard runway. Despite their size, this once-endangered, now-recovering species is as elegant as any swan, with a graceful neck and snowy-white plumage.

Trumpeter Swans are impressively large—males average over 26 pounds, making them North America’s heaviest flying bird. To get that much mass aloft the swans need at least a 100-meter-long “runway” of open water: running hard across the surface, they almost sound like galloping horses as they generate speed for take off.

Starting in the 1600s, market hunters and feather collectors had decimated Trumpeter swan populations by the late 1800s. Swan feathers adorned fashionable hats, women used swan skins as powder puffs, and the birds’ long flight feathers were coveted for writing quills. Aggressive conservation helped the species recover by the early 2000s. Overhunting of muskrats and beavers may have harmed Trumpeter Swans, too: the swans nest on their dens and dams. As the rodents’ populations recovered, the breeding habitat for the swans also improved.

Trumpeter Swans form pair bonds when they are three or four years old. The pair stays together throughout the year, moving together in migratory populations. Trumpeters are assumed to mate for life, but some individuals do switch mates over their lifetimes. Some males that lost their mates did not mate again.

The swans spend significant time preening, rubbing their bills in the oil-secreting uropygial gland near the base of the tail, then distributing the oil over the feathers to waterproof them. Swans form long-lasting pairs and may identify a nesting site when less than 2 years old, but often wait several more years to breed.

Trumpeter Swans take an unusual approach to incubation: they warm the eggs by covering them with their webbed feet. To feed, Trumpeter Swans skim vegetation from the surface, dip their long necks underwater to forage, and tip like dabbling ducks with the rear half of their body in the air as they scour for algae, leaves, stems and roots of pondweeds and other plants. They also pump their large, webbed feet up and down to create water currents that free roots from surrounding mud.

Trumpeter Swans are mainly vegetarians, although they occasionally eat small fish and fish eggs. Younger birds also eat aquatic insects before switching to a plant-dominated diet. Day and night, the birds feed on a broad range of aquatic plants, including pondweeds, eelgrass, marestail, sedges, rushes, duckweed, wild rice and algae. To feed underwater they tip in the air like dabbling ducks, rooting beneath the surface to twist and pull up vegetation or freeing roots by paddling their feet in the mud. In winter they eat a higher percentage of terrestrial plants and berries, such as blueberries, cranberries, lupine, wheatgrass, broom, and ryegrass. Grain crops, including corn and barley, and tubers such as potatoes and carrots also make up part of the wintertime diet.”

Clouds started to move in as I paddled back….

They are an early morning alarm clock, they don’t call them Trumpeter swans for nothing;) Ha! As I got back to the dock they swam over. All I had to offer were a few sunflower seeds. The male came over at first and nibbled them out of my hand, then Joyce was brave enough to sample some as well. I promised them cut up apples for the afternoon if they were hanging around:) They are VERY large but exceeding polite birds!:) Something magical about having them eat out of your hand:)

Such amazing reflections and magical swans!

The weather was just too nice, we broke records last week, 30° Celcius In October…0_0…86° Flinstone scale! So the highs of 10° yesterday with howling winds and rain were a shock, even when you do know they are coming.

The few remaining bugs, mostly Common Eastern Bumblebees have been clinging to the last of the dahlia blooms at night, no frost yet so they are still beautiful. A Banded Tussock Moth and his mini-me were crawling along the basement door, the mini-me, I think may have become his next meal! 0_0! I spied a butterfly on my walk out to the mailboxes, a Pearl Crescent, and a few young bullfrogs in the swamp. The Autumn Meadhawks are still flitting over the swamps. I spied a larger dark-coloured dragonfly but it was busy flying and did not land. A new to me beetle was clamouring across the gravel as well. Commonly known as Blister beetles. The name derives from their defensive strategy: when threatened by collectors or predators they release oily droplets of hemolymph from their joints (legs, neck, and antennae). This fluid is bright orange and contains cantharidin, a poisonous chemical compound. Wiping the chemical on skin can cause blistering and painful swelling of the skin.
As with all other members of Meloidae, the larval cycle is hypermetamorphic; the larva goes through several body types, the first of which is typically a mobile triungulin that finds and attaches to a host in order to gain access to the host’s offspring. They usually climb onto a flower head and await a bee there. They will then attach themselves to the bee. If it is a male, they wait for mating with a female. They will switch to the female when this takes place. If the bee is a female, however, she will take them back to her nest unwittingly. Once in the nest, the larvae morph into a grub-like “couch potato” and feed upon all of the provisions and the larva. Next, they form a pupa and emerge in various seasons depending on the species. Each species of Meloe may attack only a single species or genus of bs. Some are generalists. Though sometimes considered parasitoids, it appears that in general, the Meloe larva consumes the bee larva along with its provisions, and can often survive on the provisions alone. So, you catch a ride on a female bee and become a couch potato in her hive while consuming her grubs, isn’t nature somewhat gruesome, weird and amazing!

There are only a few Asters blooming for the rest of the bugs out there. I collected some baneberry and holly seeds to dry, we’ll see how that works. The true splendour was in the canopy above me as I walked down the road. In the swamps the reds are fierce, the birches have lost their leaves already but the maples, they range in all the colours from green to yellow to orange to red.

You start humming a James Taylor tune…:) Or it could be a John Denver one as well;)

“Take to the highway won’t you lend me your name
Your way and my way seem to be one and the same, child
Mama don’t understand it
She wants to know where I’ve been
I’d have to be some kind of natural-born fool
I wanna pass that way again
But I could feel it, oh
On a country road”

But it’s fleeting these magnificent colours and warmth. You have to appreciate every day the sun shines and when the wind still sunsets and sunrises bring their magic. Those moments when not a breath of wind is in the air and the fallen leaves are floating, waiting to get moved away by the morning breeze…

Still working on that #LittleRedCanoe calendar for 2024! Ha! We have had a few evenings this week where the sun has appeared under the clouds just as it was setting, as if to remind us of the wonder, even after a day of rain and wind. Astounding beauty can be found:) When you casually look out the window after looking at your photos of soggy maple leaves in the rain all afternoon and see this! The sun came out at the last minute! Holy F@*k Batman! Isn’t nature grand!

I can’t read the news, my heart aches for the death and destruction happening in our beautiful world. Man is man’s worst enemy, will we ever evolve? C’mon Darwin!

I’ll leave it there, still so much to do. The swim ladder needs to be pulled and painted, dahlias, well, they get to keep blooming for the bees but the cannas and gladiolas have been pulled and are drying, last of the tomatoes are in, the trailer needs to be winterized, and the list never ends, we are never, really ready for Winter! The Traveling Mewberries were not impressed by the last few days of rain…Time to get out their wee winter coats I told them! Stay tuned! If you are looking for a beautiful book to read, our wonderful friend Jennifer gave me this to peruse last time we were down at the barn, she said it reminded her of my blogs. I was very much flattered by that after reading it: “The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady” by Edith Holden. A remarkable journey through the seasons month by month with stunning drawings and poems, I think I would have liked Edith very much! While reading through the book a poem about March by William Wordsworth stuck a cord, read it, the last line…

What man has made of man?…

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