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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Irruption of Migrants

On October 21 a low pressure area moved in from the Pacific. The moon was 48 hours short of fullness. For a half hour on either side of 3:30 PM these migrating birds bathed at the font:

20 yellow-rumped warblers
8 cedar waxwings
4 western bluebirds
1 bush tit
1 Wilson's warbler
1 hermit thrush
3 golden crowned sparrows
1 white crowned sparrow

This abundance in its comings and goings resembled on a miniaturized scale the activities at a water hole at Etosha Pan, Namibia. Each species appeared to defer to the other as they arrived and departed in shifts. Each animal seemed aware of the ripeness of the unfolding moment. Time itself seemed newly palpable as embodied in this awareness.

In Etosha, a last refuge for megafauna, the animal population visiting water within a half hour might typically be comprised of gemsbok, endemic black-faced impala, greater kudu, zebra, eland, giraffe, springbok, warthog, lion, elephant, banded mongoose, jackal, sand grouse, and ringed doves.

At night serval, caracal, hyena, and black rhino might share the same water hole.

On October 22 a skein of perhaps 200 Canada honkers winged their way south about 2,000 feet above the ranch.

The hedgerow of native plants is well established in its sixth year. It includes toyon, coffee berry, ceanothus, manzanita, coyote brush, redbud, gooseberry, and flannel bush. On what was bare tilled earth there is now food and cover for quail, jackrabbits and others.

The ever growing slash pile is a redoubt for quail, fence lizards, gopher snakes, alligator lizards, sparrows, ground squirrels and hares.

This week I planted more natives - buckwheat, sages, and penstemon, among others.

Settler families with roots in the East may have harbored nostalgia for high-color autumns. Their descendants planted Eastern trees such as sweet gum in the West. Lake County as a whole is still a place dominated by native plants in sharp contrast to counties such as Sonoma and Marin with their large tracts of eucalyptus, along with palms, acacia, and many other aliens.

This year's relatively short growing season for vegetables and fruit is winding down.