Monday, May 2, 2011

The burst of spring

I encountered my first Western Tanager of the year on Monday's Conservancy bird walk - just moments after a participant asked about them. It was a stunning, bright male in the black oaks in front of the visitor center - lots of exclamations from all present. Since then, more males have arrived and are singing in Yosemite Valley. This morning we had the triple feature of the bright neo-tropicals when within a short time we also saw the male Black-headed Grosbeak and Bullock's Oriole. Surprises on Monday were the Lark Sparrow feeding on the gravel trail along Cook's Meadow and the Western Kingbird sallying out from the black oak canopy over the meadow. This morning we had a decent look at Vaux's Swifts.
Those black oaks are pale green with dangling flowers now and a few leaves are starting to emerge. The early dogwood below the former diversion dam site, along 140 has 'blooms' almost 3 inches across which are almost fully white. Most Valley dogwoods are still pale green - they're more than a week behind an average spring schedule.
The Merced River has leapt in volume with the warm weather this week; it's doubled in volume in the past five days. This morning it had already exceeded the average springtime peak - and there are still a few weeks of potential increase to the average high flow date. Low-lying Valley trails are starting to get wet, but there's no real flooding yet. (Last year peak flow reached 2.5 times what it is now!)

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