Sunday, October 09, 2005

Time and Temperature the Natural Way

You don't need a clock, thermometer or a calendar in the country to tell the time, the season or the temperature. We have the birds, the light and the mist on the ponds.

Red-shouldered hawks begin calling to each other when the sun is just about to come up. The sound is loud enough to wake up just about anyone. That's your cue to get up. Then mid-morning the Canada Geese return from their migration to the local wastewater treatment plant to the west. They go there at sunset and loudly return east around 10 each morning. As far as I can tell that's about as far as these geese migrate. The last group to make it to Canada were on a flight paid for by the City of Fremont in the Bay Area. The city council decided to get rid of the geese that were pooping all over the local golf courses. So they flew them to Canada. Many of these geese were tagged. You guessed it. They came right back. I have this image of a Southwest Airlines flight with all the geese strapped in receiving little bags of peanuts. But I digress.

Light tells us the season too. Fall light is yellow and spring light is pink. As soon as you see the change in color you know where you are on the calendar.

Back to birds. In the fall we await the Northern Flickers who just arrived. They love to hang on to the stucco on our house up near the eaves. Unfornately they love to poop while clinging to the house. Then the migrant ducks begin to arrive. The white-crowned sparrows are back as well. And the Western Bluebirds come down from higher altitudes to spend the winter in warmer territory. The Meadlowlarks go somewhere, I'm just not sure where.

Spring is heralded by the arrive of two mallards we call Sir Lawrence and Dame Olivia. They arrive just as spring does and take up residence on our property. They bathe in the sprinklers, eat dropped bird seed, poop everywhere and swim in the irrigation ditch. They do their duck sex thing and then Olivia, or Livie for short, searches for a nesting spot. She's either not very bright or got bad instructions from mom, because she always seems to find a nest that says to the racoons and possums, I'm over here. Come on down and eat my eggs. Sir Lawrence, or Larry for short, hangs around for some of this, but the minute she starts sitting on eggs he's gone to some bachelor pad where other drakes hang out. She has never successfully hatched eggs that we know of.

And finally you know that fall is arriving when the pond is covered with a light mist as soon as the sun gets high enough to hit the water.

So who needs all those gadgets to know what's happening in the neighborhood.

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