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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pear Blossom Time

By April 11 in the orchard, blossoms had begun giving way to leaves. Frosty nights still lay ahead, but days were warm.

Two types of hummingbird, Rufous and Anna's, along with bumble bees and honey bees, hurried among the coral-red quince blooms as if knowing the feast would be short-lived. The five-year-old tree peonies flowered for the first time.

In counterpoint to the burst of renewed life, a solitary rooster, following the tradition of old Cape Buffalo bulls and elderly Hindu men, graduated from being a householder to wandering the world as a sadhu. He rested for hours at a time on a bed of dry oak leaves among oak saplings or basked in the reflected heat coming off the corrogated metal bunkhouse. He picked at some spilled seed beneath a bird feeder in a disinterested way as if half remembering a former appetite. He was
not yet past the need to occasionally check in with his old rivals on the neighboring ranch. But he wouldn't bother anymore to
visit them. Staying put, he let loose a series of hoarse cock-a-doodle-dos, loud, but not so powerful as they had been in previous seasons. He seemed gratifed that he still elicited a faintly heard response from roosters in the distance. His increasing detatchment had a kind of dignity of foreknowledge.

Bluebirds managed to establish a nest in one of the boxes in spite of fierce competition from tree swallows, which colonized several boxes. Bluebirds construct tidy nests of straw, while tree swallows utilize poultry feathers in abundance. While bluebirds keep their nests clean, swallows soon foul theirs with guano. On the ranch, the swooping, twittering swallows are one of the most anticipated sights of Spring.

The columns of perforations left by the pair of red-bellied sapsuckers last Fall does not seem to have compromised the vigor of the young valley oak. The trunk was almost girdled by the birds, but leafout is happening, albeit later than that of most of the other oaks. But this particular tree has always been late to green up.

Rainy Aprils in past years have brought as many as thirty common mergansers to our section of the creek. This season I saw six. A pair is staying close to the woodduck box.

Since I ended the epoch of field tilling, the harrow has been languishing in meadow grasses.