I know, I know, you don’t want to talk about it - but it’s inevitable…winter is on the way and preparation can be the key to successfully getting through it. This is true for us humans (sealing windows, gathering firewood, etc.), but of course it is also true and is an extremely important time for much of the wildlife that calls the Frontenac Arch home.
You've probably already seen or heard some of the V-shaped gaggles of geese flying overhead that remind us all of the cooler months ahead. Loons, such a common sight on the Arch’s many glistening lakes, are usually seen as solitary birds or with their mates alone. This time of year, the loons are getting ready to migrate to the east coast where they spend the winter on the ocean, looking for herring instead of perch. Normally loons are not social, but before they migrate they can be seen gathering in groups on the lakes in the area and the sight/sound can be quite a spectacle. Oh yeah, and while many say loons mate for life, it should be noted that they winter separately from each other!
Many of the mammals that enjoy the summer bounty of the Frontenac Arch’s forests and fields need to start fattening up or stocking up for the winter chill. The squirrels may be gathering nutrients from the forest floor so they make it through the winter months and beavers may be grabbing some extra grub to ensure they have enough for the winter. In fact, some folks will tell you that they can tell how severe a winter is going to be by how hard the beavers are working in September and October.
Even plants are getting ready for the snow and cold to come. Obviously, we all are blessed to know about the changing leaf colours of the fall on the Arch, but other plants are making adjustments too. Wetland plants for example, such as water lilies, begin to pull their floating summer leaves and soaking stems down towards the bottom of the lakes and ponds to protect themselves from the ice and cold.
Some of the species that are considered “at risk” on the Frontenac Arch need to make sure they get their winter homes ready before the snow starts to fly. Turtles like the Blanding’s Turtle (threatened) will get some last meals, and then start digging down in the mud and muck of shorelines where they slow their bodies down for the duration of the cold season. Snakes, like Black Ratsnakes (threatened), are on the move to their hibernacula or hibernation sites. Mature snakes return to the same sites year after year, so hopefully they don’t suffer change as they may then not know where to go.
It’s not always pleasant to think about the upcoming winter, but for much of the Frontenac Arch’s wildlife, it is an important time to get prepared. Get out there on some of the trails on the Arch and experience the autumn splendour!