Spring Surprises

Surprises come in two variations—positive and negative.

Like most people who care about our planet and its denizens, I worry about contagion, wars, and climate change. While I’m extremely grateful that nobody is shooting at me or making me leave my home and country, that water flows when I turn on the faucet and electricity when I flip the switch, the weather this spring, usually my favorite season, has surprised in unpleasant kinds of ways.

The most dire way is a near-complete absence of snow and/or rain. We haven’t seen any significant moisture in the last couple of months. April in Colorado Springs, which is typically our snowiest month, has been the driest since 1965, tying a low record of 1/100th of an inch of total precipitation—virtually nothing. Not only has it been skin-cracking dry, we have experienced more windy days and higher wind speeds than anyone can remember, many of them resulting in red flag warnings and two in “extreme” fire weather danger, a classification that had only been applied a handful of times in previous decades. Several fires have already wreaked havoc on the land and its inhabitants, be they human or otherwise.

This nearly-constant wind is enervating and exhausting, blowing dust, pollen, and who knows what else through the air and covering everything in a fine layer of dust, both indoors and out, desiccating skin and mucus membranes, causing a scratchy throat, burning eyes, and frequent sneezing, and making being outdoors less than enjoyable. All that during a time when all I want to do is be out in nature. I’m not comparing present-day conditions to those during the Dust Bowl, but the images of Great Plains residents hanging wet towels in front of their windows to keep the dust at bay, relayed to me by a dear friend who witnessed the event, come to me unbidden.

In view of global happenings, my complaints might sound petty and trivial, but drought and fires are no mere trifles and affect a huge swath of the country. Colorado’s most recent drought monitor from last week shows that 100 % of the state is abnormally dry, with 91% suffering from moderate and 48% from severe drought. The effects aren’t limited to Colorado. With a lower-than-average snowpack in most regions, all areas downstream from the state’s rivers will suffer the consequences, most notably those dependent on the Colorado River, as the serious conditions in Lakes Mead and Powell prove. The prevalent La Niña pattern and jet stream, held responsible for the current weather pattern, aren’t predicted to change any time soon, so the outlook doesn’t give much reason for optimism.

But no one wants or needs to be constantly reminded of doom and gloom. I try to keep things in perspective and not lose hope (I envy you eternal optimists). And I still spend as much time out-of-doors as possible, trying to exploit those hours or days when the breezes are mild. I still enjoy watching the leaves and flowers emerge, even if they do so more hesitantly and less exuberantly than during years with “normal” precipitation. I particularly want to be outside because my favorite annual event is in full swing—spring migration of the world’s avifauna.

One of the wind’s windfalls, so to speak, has been the arrival of a number of species considered rare, many of them usually occurring in the Southeast. They likely were swept here by strong southeasterly breezes, overshooting their destination. Although these windfalls are exciting for birders, they make me wonder and worry about the birds, as they might not be able to find their way to their breeding grounds to meet up with and perpetuate their kind. But while they are here, I relish their presence, quietly giving thanks. And when they move on to delight another birder’s soul, I wish them well. As I did with the four beauties who brought pleasant surprises this spring, all of them life birds for me.

Pine Warbler/Kiefernwaldsänger

Common Gallinule/Amerikanisches Teichhuhn

Brown Pelican/Brauner Pelikan

White Ibis/Schneesichler

38 thoughts on “Spring Surprises

  1. That lack of rain/snow must be a big worry. We have had a very dry spring but not on your scale, it’s raining today but probably won’t help the farmers much.
    Congrats on the new birds, always a thrill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Liz. I’m glad you enjoyed the birds. The lack of moisture is a huge concern for many states and all creatures suffer from thee lack of moisture. We can only hope that the pattern will change and bring some rain.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your weather sounds grim. Like you, I feel slightly uncomfortable when an unexpected avian vagrant arrives courtesy of unseasonal weather, even though it’s always interesting to see a new species. Hopefully your birds will find their way back to where they are meant to be before too long. The White Ibis is particularly handsome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mr. P. The White Ibis was extremely graceful and I’m so excited that I was able to see it. Let’s hope all these errant birds will find their intended destination, or at least adapt if they don’t. It makes me so sad that the bad consequences of our actions affect not only humans, but also every other living creature on earth, and usually not in a good way.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. With reference to the name of your first bird, I looked up Kiefer and found it means ‘pine.’ I also found that Kiefer coalesced from the older compound Kienföhre, where Kien meant ‘resinous wood’ and Föhre meant ‘pine.’ You could say there’s never a dry season for etymology, unlike for Colorado now and also for west-central Texas.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Mir geht es ähnlich wie dir Tanja, wenn es bei uns auch nicht ganz so extrem ist wie bei dir. Aber auch hier im März, April, Mai bis jetzt so gut wie kein Regen. Vielleicht heute Nacht. Dann noch Sturm bei dir mit Sand und Feuergefahr, daß ist heftig und trocknet noch mehr aus. Es bleibt uns wohl nur, damit leben zu lernen. Wie auch immer. Die Vögel sind da immer ein schöner Trost und zeigen, man kann eigentlich nur im Hier und Jetzt leben 🙂 LG und eine gute Woche und alsbald Regen!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ich danke Dir, liebe Almuth. Es ist schwer anzusehen, wie sehr alle und alles unter der Trockenheit leiden. Die Vegetation ist so trocken, viele Bäume sterben, dadurch wird das Klima noch wärmer und Lebensraum geht verloren, … 😢

      Auch Dir wünsche ich, daß der nötige Regen vielleicht doch noch kommt.
      Alles Gute,

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ja, das ist schwer. Unser Frühling ist erstaunlich grün und üppig hier. So langsam werden die ersten kurzrasigen Wiesen braun, aber sonst sieht man die Trockenheit noch nicht so extrem, wie in manch anderen Jahren. Was du schilderst, klingt schon fast dystopisch. Irgendwie müssen wir wohl lernen, damit zu leben. Gestern las ich, daß solche Dürren oft wieder von Regenzeiten abgelöst werden. Die Frage ist nur, wann. Alles Gute!
        LG Almuth

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I imagine you would be worried about surviving such conditions long term– the changes in climate patterns all over is enough to keep one up at night, wondering where this is all headed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some nights these worries ARE keeping me up, Eliza, and I suspect the same is true for you. It’s to a point now where I have serious doubts about our ability to make any significant dent in the trajectory unless everybody pulls on one rope. Alas, I don’t see that happening.


  6. I can understand your concern – climate change worries me too. It can be very dry here in the East of England too, though not to the same extent. But I do see the effects and they are not good. It’s particularly worrying when we see the soil get very dry and dusty-looking…vulnerable to erosion I should think.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Having those rare birds show up because of changes in the climate could be akin to landscape photographers taking advantage of the smoky skies form the fires. Making the best out of a bad situation.

    Some will say that changing climate is a regular thing through the eons which is true. But currently seems much worse with more dire consequences since those previous weather changes happened during periods of lesser populations. And wars have been a regular thing in our human history but this is the first time one threatens all of human existence. It’s hard to shistle a happy tune with all that going on. (of course I mean whistle but I guess my inner Snoop Dogg got the better of me there 🙂 ) But when we spend our time immersed in nature much of that falls into the background allowing us to enjoy life. That’s what happens when I visit a waterfall or cascade that drowns out all else.

    It has now turned to summer here with high heat and we also have had many windy days making flower photography a challenge. I hope your weather is improved since this post and that you are enjoying your weekend, Tanja.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for commiserating, Steve. I’m also grateful for all the wonders Nature still holds in store for us, despite being disrupted on so many different levels. How much of this disruption is man-made isn’t necessarily clear, but that we need to do more to try to mitigate the effects of a warming climate is.

      On a lighter note, your new word creation, “shistle,” made me chuckle. I think it should be entered into the dictionary. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh dear! your drought sounds simply dreadful! I could feel guilty for the amount of rain we’ve been having (though still a bit less than normal), but for health and aging issues taking precedence here. Thank heavens for unexpected visitors. Hoping for the best for us all! 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    • No need for you to feel guilty, Gunta. It would be nice to be able to distribute rain according to need, but that’s beyond us, at least for now.
      My encounters with new birds have definitely been a highlight of an otherwise fairly depressing spring. I’m sharing in your hope for better days ahead.


  9. I confess I had to smile when I saw the birds you’d included today. Flocks of white ibis regularly patrol the marina and nursing home lawns around here. Pine warblers come to my feeders, and the brown pelicans regularly fish in the marinas while I’m at work. All of those birds are my friends — I’m glad that they graced you with their presence. I can assure you that all of these are fairly adaptable — especially the ibis. Since they’re as happy with grasshoppers and such as with crawfish or pond critters, they do well in our occasional real droughts. Granted, they’re happier with nice ponds to roam, but they aren’t as picky as some. The pelicans are somewhat more limited when it comes to diet, and I really don’t know a thing about the Pine Warblers, but their willingness to come to a feeder is good.

    Now, if only I could see a bluebird, or an oriole! That would make me just as happy as you are with these!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You live in a biologically versatile part of the world, Linda, with an incredible variety of plant and animal life. I’m glad you get to see these special birds regularly and hope your wishes for a bluebird and oriole encounter come true. I have been enjoying the Bullock’s Orioles at our feeders since their arrival a couple of weeks ago. Ever since I learned of their preference for fresh oranges and grape jelly, they have been regular yard visitors. Maybe you, too, should try a little bribery. 😊


  10. Beautiful lifers and wonderful rare sightings for you! I worry, too, will the birds driven off their migration paths be able to return to their home grounds, or find others in similar situations and band together to new northern grounds. Although they are not rare at the moment because of migration ongoing here along the Atlantic Flyway, I witnessed and photographed 53 Black-bellied Plovers in flight that was consider rare for my area. Got flagged by eBird but I proved with photos. 🙂 I wish you some good soaking rains soon, Tanja! The pollen alone here has been driving us crazy, I cannot imagine adding dirt/dust into the equation. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Donna, I’m thrilled to have been able to meet all these birds (though not 20 lifers, like you 😊). Your plover encounter sounds amazing. EBird’s upper limits of normal are sometimes off, so it’s good to have photographic evidence. These kinds of observations are helpful for the statisticians who look at bird numbers and migration patterns.
      Sorry to hear about your problem with pollen. We definitely have some of that, too, and the dirt and dust plus smoke from wildfires are definitely adding to the problem. I feel really bad for people with chronic respiratory problems who have to put up with this poor air quality. 😧


  11. I remember when we had a significant drought and forest fires just a few miles away. It was terrifying. West Texas is also having significant drought and more brush fires than normal. One town during the last drought ran completely out of water. We are unseasonably hot right now and have not had rain for a while with none in sight. As I get older, I find the extreme heat or cold affects me much more. Hope it rains soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The weather/climate is just one of countless problems that makes me lose my sleep, Kerry. Only last week, there were 3 fires in various neighborhoods in Colorado Springs. 😧
      Hoping with you for the heat to abate and the rains to arrive! 🌧🌧🌧


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