Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rain and Migratory Birds

Two days of glorious rain. The earth sighed and drank deeply. Nearly two inches of light, soaking rain kissed the plants and washed 7 1/2 months of dust from their leaves. The last measurable precipitation that fell here was the first week in March.

Amazingly, despite water rationing and drought the native plants are flourishing. The current has dropped all of its dried brown leaves and is flush this morning with new green foliage. The ceanothus are deep green and bolstered by the soaking.

Three days before the rain, on a dry warm October 10th, the hermit thrush arrived with its mate. The last time this bird arrived this early was four years ago, when it also had a mate.

The following day, I was overjoyed to see my friend the ruby-crowned kinglet. The trip must have been dry and dirty. It said ‘’Hello,” then scrubbed its feathers in the water pooled on the leaves of a wild grape we had just planted. That same afternoon, the season’s first pair of yellow-rumped warblers arrived. They too took long baths in the bird bath.

When I checked my records, this was the earliest we have seen the kinglet since I started keeping track in 2000. But last year it also arrived a few days before the first rain (four days before last year, three days before this year).

The rain has flushed out the insects and numerous yellow-rumped warblers are plundering the abundance throughout the neighborhood. Perhaps the arrival of these birds is a better indicator of the first seasonal rains than the weatherman and his Doppler radar.

The sun is shining again this morning. Raindrops shimmer like rainbowed jewels on leaves and petals. Ephemeral wisps of ground fog rise from the earth, spirits of winter growth to come. There is a glorious hope among the plants and the creatures that depend on them.

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