Under the Open Sky: Changes Occur, Weather You Like It Or Not

By Kimberly Mason
For The Chronicle

When the rains began this week I felt a profound sense of relief. The several days of sunshine we all had the privilege of experiencing had me worn out and weary of the call of the great outdoors.
It seemed every day brought something new and interesting.
Spring weather in Washington state is a fickle beast.
One day it’s sunny and warm, the next day (or days … and days) it’s cold, windy, raining and just plain miserable.
But Mother Nature really doesn’t care whether you like her weather or not, she’s got a job to do.
The weather forecast for Memorial Day weekend — a weekend that used to mean so much more to the bulk of American people than a long weekend away from work or the kickoff to camping season — is notoriously unreliable.
This weekend popular parks will be filled to capacity, backyard barbecues in both the country and the city will be cleaned and readied for the start of the outdoor cooking season, picnic baskets will be packed, plans to gather with friends and family will be made. But will we remember the fallen soldiers?
I wonder.

New Birds in Backyards
Spring brings some interesting “see it while you can, we’re here for one night only” kind of feathered friends passing through our neighborhoods. Some are here to stay.
Bonnie McKay, of Centralia, has a Western Tanager that has been visiting her backyard.
She’s doing everything she can to keep him there, including setting out small fruits.
“He is so gorgeous!” she told me. “However, he’s very flighty and is easily intimidated by any other birds — even Scrub Jays, which are very easy going. I hope he’s mating with someone near here. It’d be cool if he stuck around for awhile!”
Cool, indeed.
“You’d think you’d taken a trip to the tropics,” Bonnie said about the Tanager, “really dazzling colors.”
Dianna McLeod, Mossyrock, has a new visitor to her feeders, the Western Scrub Jay that Bonnie is so accustomed to seeing in her own backyard.
Scrub jays haven’t been residents of Washington state for very long and have been steadily expanding their territory. Now they are seen as far north as Seattle and beyond.
Western Scrub Jays are pushing the Steller’s Jay from our backyards as they move into new neighborhoods. I had a family establish themselves in my backyard last year, and when the Steller’s Jays tried to move back in I watched as the Scrubs told them in no uncertain terms that their presence was not welcome.
Eurasian-collared Doves is another northwest newcomer. There is a pair in Mossyrock that is driving local resident Ken Cheney to distraction with its constant “coo-coooo-cook” song, sung from the top of a telephone pole in front of his house. Over. And over. And over again.
(Personally — and I’m a bit ashamed to admit it — I find the “chubby chubby chubby, TWEET, TWEET, TWEET” of the American Goldfinches to be the most irritating song of the bird world.)
John Ross, of Toledo, has seen a new flock of Black-headed Grosbeaks fly in. I only have one male at my feeders so far, but I’m sure more are on their way.
The long stretch of sunshine we had enabled me to spot four new warblers in my scraggly orchard — Orange-crowned, Townsend’s, Wilson’s and the Common Yellow-throated Warbler.

Whether There’s Good Weather
This weekend you have a great opportunity to go outside and observe the changes that are occurring as the days length, the waters warm, the bass begin to bite and the birds raise their young.
So go outside … and then make a point on Monday to devote at least part of your day to remembering those that have given their lives to make and keep our country free.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer and photojournalist. Visit her website The (Almost) Daily News (almostdailynews.com), find her on Facebook (Kimberly Mason – The Chronicle), call 269-5017 or email kim@almostdailynews.com.