Even though it is always curled in the back of our minds as a little knot of anxiety, I am not going to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic.
Well, maybe just a little … If you are like me, you are up to your eyeballs in breaking information, including political dithering, self-isolation advice, closures and shortages, dire predictions, and the latest we don’t know about the corona virus. And I’m a public health professional!
So this morning I am focusing on the garden. The sun has been popping in and out from the last clouds of a good soaking rain, and the bird feeder is a busy place. Our first visitors are a few wild parakeets. They are relative newcomers. Local lore is that they either came from a closed arboretum, escaped from an overturned truck carrying birds destined for pet stores, or traveled across the border from Mexico (and although they are green, they did not have green cards).
Actually, I made the last one up. But however they got here, they are gorgeous and noisy. They usually come en masse, but this morning there are only a few.
I was watching the parrots when I noticed a lone California quail camouflaged in the apricot tree. She was checking out what the parrots were doing.
Quail are ubiquitous here in spring through fall. I have never seen a quail in our feeder. They usually feed with their feet planted firmly on the ground and are reluctant to fly. So I watched with interest as this fluffy female flew from branch to branch until she was just inches from the feeder. Then something spooked the parrots, and the feeder was empty. Gathering her courage, the brave quail launched herself into the feeder. She was soon joined by a whole flock of quail that began feeding off seeds that the parrots had scattered on the ground.
I was watching the newcomers when I noticed there were two quail in the feeder. A large pigeon then crash landed in the feeder, setting it swinging, and all the quail departed.
It was then I noticed a visitor of an altogether different variety: Topaz, our neighbor’s cat, was sitting on the fence. Topaz and her sister, Marble, are living charmed lives, having survived being indoor-outdoor felines in coyote country for several years. From her perch on the fence, it was clear that Topaz was in hunting mode.
When she moved into the neighborhood, I had a talk with her: no birds! Everything else was fair game—literally. So far, she has honored the deal, and as if to reassure me, she turned her back on the busy feeder.
Looking up, I noticed a pair of crows had resumed building their nest. The sky behind them was magical as more clouds broke up and sunlight intermittently splashed the mountains. Last week’s partial rainbow reappeared briefly against the chaparral.
All this timeless and predictable beauty and drama—so present and so comforting in these uncertain times. I think John Burroughs said it well: “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” Not bad advice for all of us.