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MARTHA SEZ: It’s all in the change of seasons

October 4, 2012
MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

I just read in my "Adirondack Rhythms" calendar by Alison W. Bell that September is the month when loons begin leaving breeding lakes and migrate to warmer coastal areas. This is a surprise to me, since I had thought that loons were mainly good at swimming, not flying or walking around on land. Wait a minute while I consult my library of nature books. Or maybe I'll google it.

Wow. According to, an on-line branch of "Adirondack Explorer," loons are actually very good at flying. After a cold snap, they can fly up to 8,000 feet, averaging a height of about 6,000 feet, much higher than geese or other birds fly, where they catch northwesterly winds with speeds of about 40 miles per hour.

According to the article I read, an Adirondack loon can attain a cruising speed of about 60 miles per hour, arriving in New Jersey in around four hours time. Some loons just go to big lakes not far from their breeding grounds, because larger bodies of water don't freeze solid the way ponds do, but some Adirondack loons actually overwinter in the Atlantic along the East Coast. This just doesn't seem right. I wonder what the seagulls think of them.

"I see the loons are back."

"Oh, good grief."

The most impressive migration, to me, is that of the monarch butterfly. Big groups of them are heading off to Mexico and California this month and in October. I've heard they follow highways. But what about the caterpillars that are just starting to make chrysali now? Won't it be a little late for them? I had better look that up too.

Good heavens. According to, there are four generations of monarchs born in one year, and only the first and fourth generations migrate. Generation one is born down south, in Mexico or California, and flies north in spring to lay eggs in milkweed patches.

Generations two and three hatch, eat milkweed, pupate, emerge, lay eggs and die in the same vicinity. They live only for a few weeks.

When generation four monarchs emerge as butterflies, they travel south en masse to lay their eggs. This generation lives for several months. Fourth-generation monarch butterflies always return to the same trees their great-great-grandparents migrated to. How do they know?

I wouldn't have believed this if I hadn't found it on a site called, but you figure they must know.

Beavers are now stockpiling winter food underwater where their ponds are the deepest. You don't see beavers migrating. Maybe I'll go over to the Keene Central School pond at dusk and see whether I can detect any activity.

According to the "Adirondack Rhythms" calendar, the antlers of the white-tailed deer buck are now fully formed, just in time for rutting season in October. Looking good for the does. And in time to look good as a hunting trophy on somebody's wall as well, although from the buck's point of view this is the down side.

Hunting season hasn't arrived yet, and it isn't time for the human denizens of the North Country to begin their annual migration, but it's coming up. I wonder every year how Florida and South Carolina can find room for the vast numbers of Yankees who sojourn there every winter. I don't blame them for going, though. I too hate to see summer end.

People get into arguments about this, as if anyone actually had any control over the weather. If I say "I hate to see summer end," someone else is bound to respond, "Oh, not me! I just can't wait for that crisp, cool weather. Fall is my favorite time of year."

To the best of these people's seriously flawed recollection, the cerulean blue days of Indian summer, combined with peak leaf season, last a really long time. In reality, however, Indian summer is a brief and beautiful last fling, a last chance to go out and enjoy the woods and mountains before old Man Winter settles in for five or six months of extreme and unusual Adirondack weather.

In summer, you could live outside. You stay outside long enough in winter, you die. You won't be bitten by bugs, but there's frostbite.

When we argue about our season preferences we can get quite huffy, so it's good to remember that none of us has any say about the weather, which in the Adirondacks is usually unusual, and often extreme, but interesting.

Have a good week.



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