Greening Week—This is it. Palmer’s Greening Week. This is when the color of the season switches in a major way from browns, grays and whites to greens. It won’t take long. In fact you can actually photo chronicle the growth of a leaf from morning to evening. Aggressive green will sprout from hotter microclimates near bare dirt or concrete. Tree buds will be noticeably larger each time you look. The trees on the lower mountainsides have a shimmer of green color and their trunks show the juicy blood sap in their bones. Higher up on the mountain, you won’t see the change quite yet, but in a few weeks the higher elevations too will join the green-up.
April is History—We had four fine spring snowfalls and temperature fluctuations of over 50 degrees within one 24 hour period. We had huge dumps of substantial sunlight. We had hail. We had rain. We had wind. We had nearly every seasonal weather pattern available all within one month. The snowpack is diminishing high up on the mountains and with it comes the water. Much of the flatland has already dried up and thawed. But the mountainside is still in transition Dried and molded grasses are plentiful before green-up and with that comes the fire hazard.
Flocking in Palmer, Alaska—It isn’t a new phenomena. Spring is the historic time for flocking. This applies to humans, animals as well as birds. Last weekend was the first summer flocking festival in downtown Palmer, with Who Let The Girls Out. It was grand. Flocks of people were on the sidewalks, at the river bed, on the hiking trails and up at Hatcher Pass. There will be many more summer festivals and markets. In fact nearly every weekend, all summer long, has Palmer flocking events to music venues, parades, Friday flings, fundraisers and summer festivals and markets.
Birds too are definitely into flocking right now. Specifically the raven.
Raven Route from Palmer to the Hills—Every night, 15-20 minutes before sunset, large numbers of ravens will finish up their day of scavenging in Palmer and at the landfill. It seems that they generally head north and east to the foothills, where they roost at night. Apparently it happens year round but because of the time or the number, it is easier to spot in the springtime. It’s as if they wear little wristwatches on their feet which reminds them to head for the hills.
Bird experts call it communal roosting. The ravens don’t all fly together necessarily but there are groupings who seem to travel together. Sometimes there is an orderly string. Sometimes there is just a deliberate pair. Rarely does one see a sole raven on the Raven Route. They fly with purpose. The destination is the roost which some say is a “Murder Tree.” (I suspect the term murder comes from the fact that a flock of ravens is sometimes referred to as a Murder of Ravens. Actually it should be a Congress, Constable or an Unkindness of Ravens and a Murder of Crows. But nonetheless the local reference Murder tree is the destination. Supposedly it is a conspicuous landmark location for the ravens, yet vegetated thickly enough to prevent predators.) Presumably all these ravens live and roost in the tree area and local Palmer folks indicate that communal roost locations may be just beyond the top of Smith Road or near the Lazy Mountain trailhead. Not being an ornithologist, I can’t speak with great wisdom about our ravens but I can comfortably repeat folklore and common observations. They are pretty smart birds and the Palmer ones are definitely the best.
Barbara Hunt is both Palmer writer and artist. She works hard to keep the robust pulse of Palmer, Alaska. She shares the good stuff with you at the weekly Palmer Alaska Buzz Column in the Wednesday, Mat Su Valley Frontiersman and daily on the Palmer Alaska Buzz Facebook Group. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.