The cool and wet spring weather has been a hot topic lately. One would almost think that someone jinxed it lately by saying nice things about the season, but who would be that crazy?
To explain this weather, a recent Vancouver Sun headline put it this way: ‘B.C. spring weather: Cooler and wetter than normal, forecasters say’. Apparently the continued influence of La Niña is part of the problem.
There are pros and cons with this weather. This is obviously challenging for farmers trying to get their crops in, although the moisture likely will prove beneficial yet. Meanwhile, the lack of wildfires is nice. The old dead grass from last year was very tall in places and could have contributed to very aggressive spread of fires if we had ended up with dry and windy conditions now.
The weather this past winter was somewhat odd with weird fluctuations. After that extreme cold snap in December and January, we had unseasonably warm weather and chinooks in February that basically took the snow away. Melt water puddles formed on frozen bare ground in the fields as though it was spring breakup. Then March was somewhat closer to “normal” albeit with some chinooks. April was all over the map including some cold and snowy spells, and now May is just cool and damp.
An interesting phenomenon that occasionally happens in either spring or fall with these cold moisture systems is a big dump of snow everywhere in the country except in the low elevation Peace River valley. Sometimes the contrast can be very stark with a definite snow line across the river breaks where it is white on top and green and/or brown below. Often this is the result of only a slight difference in temperature.
However, the most amazing part of those events to me is when the birds all show up down in the valley to escape the snow above. It can almost get to the point of getting weird, like that old Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds. I recall one time when I estimated there were at least 3000 robins just in the 140 cultivated acres of our river bottom field, with many more on the flat by our house. Neighbours elsewhere in the valley reported similar concentrations of birds.
With so many robins flying low over the highway, some were getting hit by vehicles even though most drivers had slowed down. I even saw a part-albino robin near our house. Of course, the birds of prey were attracted to this concentration of food, and they were busy hunting amongst them. It was more amazing than that crazy, old Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom TV show with host Marlin Perkins, and it was actually for real. As I am writing this now on Tuesday, May 9, we are getting another mini version of such an event as the photo shows.
Often, the big flocks of migrating Sandhill Cranes, swans, and geese use these systems from the north to help them fly south in the fall, but, of course, the head wind is not helpful for them in the spring, and I think they lay up and try to wait it out then usually.
The tree swallows started showing up here on May 1 this year, and one really has to wonder how they can find enough flying insects for their food at a time like this. I’m sure they are looking forward to the mosquitoes, and so am I, because likely that means it will have finally warmed up!
But hey, let’s look at the bright side. With getting this weather now, surely it won’t snow on the May long weekend… oops — I shouldn’t have said that!
Ken Boon lives and writes at Bear Flat.
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