It may still feel very much like summer but changes are already under way that signal an end to the oppressive heat and humidity.

Step outside in the early morning and you’ll observe subtle differences. A hazy mist hangs lazily over the pond. Birds no longer sing, and the ringing of crickets in your ears is now so constant and monotonous you barely notice it. There’s an almost palpable sensation that all the plants and animals have suddenly ceased growing and Mother Nature has breathed a huge sigh of relief. One day soon the wind will carry a more overt signal in the form of cool, dry air from the northwest that stimulates and motivates. But the subtle signs have already signaled autumn’s arrival.

The calendar says it’s still a month away but nature reads no calendars. Shorebirds that nested above the Arctic Circle are already migrating through; they have been for weeks. They’ll soon be followed by snipe and rails that will inundate the wet meadows, flooded marshes and wild rice beds, and the first flights of waterfowl – blue- and green-winged teal darting over the marsh like tiny fighter jets. Some are already here.

All spring and summer, Mother Nature toiled to promote and foster plant and animal life, titling her axis increasingly toward the sun, first to melt the snow that filled the rivers and soaked into the ground, and then to warm the soil, awakening dormant plants. Those plants, taking sunlight from the sky, moisture from the air and the ground, and nutrients from the soil grew, at first slowly, then more rapidly, at times so fast you could almost see it. Sparse meadows grew lush carpets while apples, berries and acorns swelled.

The wild turkey hen endured a feverish mating season, guarded and incubated her clutch, then tended and taught her brood. Those that survived are now nearly the size of their mother. The whitetail fawn that came into the world a dozen weeks ago as a gangly, helpless waif has developed the strength, stature and stamina to avoid predators. Ducklings, born as little more than web-footed balls of fluff, have grown the feathers and learned the skills necessary to carry them on a 1,000-mile journey. Some have already begun.

It’s time to take a break. Growth has all but stopped. Grasses and forbs that earlier grew blades and leaves, then flowers on long stalks went to seed weeks ago, signaling a biological end to summer. Apples have grown to full size and await the first frosts that will sever their stems and send them plummeting to earth. Likewise, acorns will soon be dropping at the whim of late August’s winds, September’s careless squirrels and, eventually, senescence. Ripe red, purple and blue berries bend the branches that bear them in deep arcs. Bears have been gorging on them for a month, trying to store as much fat as possible before the coming winter.

Hunters too are preparing, for fall brings with it another hunting season. Bait sites are set for the bruins that would otherwise be nearly impossible to lure into the open, and hunters will be sitting over them in another week. Shooting lanes are trimmed, trail cameras set, and treestands hung in and around apple and oak trees in anticipation of archery deer season, part of which begins just days after the last kids have started school. Duck blinds are mended and redressed with a new coat of cattails and maple boughs that are already showing hints of red in their leaves. Countless arrows are fired into foam blocks. Dummies are thrown over and over for retrievers. The intensity picks up as the season nears. It won’t be long now.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

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