Maybe it's the duration of daylight or its angle, or maybe it's a smell in the air, but something is telling them it's time to move on.
The first hint is the squawking at early dawn and dusk. The sound is a strange combination of a goose's honk and a turkey's gobble. I watch as they fly in a spiral, not typical of their usual flight patterns, doing reconnaissance over the fields.
By early October they will have congregated in the thousands in our wildlife reserves, from where they deploy to surrounding fields and grasslands.
They follow this pattern in reverse in the spring, ultimately returning to their breeding grounds in the north.
I take the loop in Merced's wildlife reserve and sometimes its not pleasant. It's hot and humid with a million flies and mosquitoes and gnats and a moldy, rotting smell typical of a wetland. When water is present, this land teems with flower and fowl. And it's probably very similar to what the valley's early inhabitants experienced before the ravages of development.
I encourage you to visit the national wildlife reserve in Merced (my personal favorite) or the areas around Galt and Lodi and Los Banos. We have so much to choose from in this valley. It's all free and it's all beautiful, and it's a great reminder of just how amazingly complex, interdependent and vulnerable all life is.