Last week we got our first Winter storm (1/2" of rain in 24 hours) and this week the storm doors have really opened up. It looks like Winter through the week and on into the next. For here, that means rain and rain and more rain in the Valley, and big snows in the aptly named Sierra Nevada.
Of course this happens during my wife's two-week break from her 70-hour-per-week job, and my chance to get outside and work in the yard and garden...
Speaking of the garden, the severe temperature swings over the last few days (70 degrees F to 35), plus my not-by-the-minute watering, have caused my three-inch cabbages to bolt. Thankfully, the bok choy and collard greens still look good.
The trees and vines are happy, and a few successful cuttings from my first pomegranate pruning are leafing out. The latter is especially exciting, as I am happy to get additional trees started for either privacy from the neighbors or for sale (both?). Heck, I could start a pomegranate orchard... if I had more than 1/8 acre, including house.
To me, the real signs of Spring come from the sky: the local birds are paired up. Scrub jays, mockingbirds, yellow-billed magpies and white-tailed kites are among the bigger nesting birds in our neighborhood. The poor doves (Zenaida macroura, mourning doves) are as dumb as posts when it comes to nest location and building, building on grates, in windy spots, or so close to the door that they spook and knock their eggs through their horribly constructed nests. The act would be quite funny if it weren't so tragic in its conclusions and came with such a melancholy song to go with it. Nevertheless, mourning doves seem to have taken a page from the rock doves and Eurasion collared doves and are becoming quite successful city dwellers.
I'm always happy to see our endemic magpies, Pica nuttalli, the yellow-bills. Like all magpies, they have suffered greatly from the invasion of West Nile virus, and I fear their numbers might not adapt quickly enough to survive. They are wonderfully colorful, and a little exotic to me, as there were never any magpies on the Delta where I grew up. We would only see them on trips to the movies or the grocery store "in town", a forty mile drive.
The kites are amazing flyers, passing food in mid-flight and doing other tricks, showing off to one another, and also careening into the neighborhood redtailed hawk. They make a great example for a successful marriage.
If you've never seen Elanus leucurus you are missing out on a wonderful show. Their hunting style is rare: they not only kite, per their name (every raptor around here kites, else they'd never eat, what with the wind). Kites hover. Only two other birds I know hover around here, hummingbirds and kestrels. In fact, their striking colors, plus their hovering ability and, I'm sure, their breathtaking stoops (a straight drop from hover, wings extended above) have given them another common name: Angel kites.
We also have regular "lbb's", little brown birds of various species. Our gigantic trees allow a number of mountain migrants to overwinter, and we often see nuthatches, creepers, juncos (whose tiny, sweet song I noticed for the first time this year), and the occasional warbler in them. In the backyard cover, a hermit thrush makes an appearance. A nuttall's woodpecker visits the walnut tree. High overhead, snow geese and white-fronted geese pass to and from the local wetlands conservancy, fattening up for the couple-thousand-mile trek to Alaska for the Summer.
And, frustratingly, since my neighbors cut down their palm tree home, a mugging of starlings now pressures and bullies and pushes their way into other birds' nests. Vile European colonists spreading their urbanizing, monochromatic influence into the neighborhood, literally kicking out eggs onto the street. Yes, I get the irony.
Sacramento is still blessed with a good variety of birds, even with the colonizers, because of our location (on a waterfowl flyway and at the bottom of a ten thousand foot mountain range) and the amount of land we conserve for habitat. Shoot, we even have a federally protected Wild & Scenic River running right through the city proper.
Listening to the birds, I am heartened. I know that Spring is springing, even in this storm. All's right with the world.
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