The matter of babies can be confusing for somebody like me who does not know what to look for. By the time the young are out and about they are nearly as big as their parents. The other day I watched a yard full of robins searching for insects and worms. Looking, I realized that it was a sight I had not seen for some time. The robins had disappeared in July, when they were nesting. Except for that hypervigilant father who guarded the nest in the grape arbour and loudly scolded me every time I came into the garden. Now I saw that many of the dozen or so robins in the yard had the speckled breasts of juveniles, though they all seemed pretty much the same size. If I had not looked at them more carefully I would not have known I was seeing babies.
It was the same with the great blue herons. For a couple of weeks in July the sky seemed filled with them, flying back and forth in their diagonal flight pattern from the eastern side of the island toward the cove. I did not understand what I was seeing. Where did they all come from? I wondered then. It did not occur to me that the babies would by then be as big as their parents, even though I had seen that one tentative young heron in the backyard, enormous and gawky. Then the sky emptied of herons and they were gone.
This silence and emptiness will continue to settle slowly on the island over the next month or so. It's a via negativa that gives clarity to the summer's jumbled intensity, like a developing photograph emerges from the emulsion bath of the darkroom. But secretive little birds will continue to flit silently through the spruce forests, and many of the robins will remain over the winter, along with the gulls and the crows, who will party on.