Weather in the foothills

“My favorite weather is bird-chirping weather.” ~ Loire Hartwould


Last Friday morning I was awakened by chirping birds and the tinkling of wind chimes. Upon opening our French doors, I was greeted by another beautiful spring day – definitely warmer than I had predicted. As mentioned, though, there was a weather tournament being played out, the onshore winds vs. the offshore winds. So far both sides were even. As the day progressed the competition became more heated, with the offshore winds coming in stronger from the NE. By evening and continuing into the weekend, they completely took over the weather arena as full-blown Santa Ana Winds gusted up to 50 mph. No damage reported. Even the nests and their occupants tucked under our eaves along the back of our house remained safe.
As I went outside armed with a can of insecticide to tackle the aphid-covered roses, I paused for a moment to figure out where to start. Our yard was all aflutter with birds – all kinds. Some were splashing in the bird baths, others were carrying bits of food and twigs to their homes. The ones I was most drawn to were small and yellow and all over the rose bushes eating aphids. So much for spraying the roses, as I imagined these mom-birds were collecting food to take back to their nests to feed their chicks.
This was enough to pique my latent interests and recall a certain fond memory. When I was 6 years old my grandma and I got all dressed up (including white gloves) and took an RTD bus to downtown L.A. We shopped at Bullocks bargain basement where she let me choose a new book – Birds of North America. The book stayed at grandma’s house so when I came to visit (she lived in Montrose), we spent hours looking at all the pictures and learning the birds’ names.
Fast forward a few years to last weekend. I felt drawn to indentify the aphid eaters: Yellow Warblers. Now I felt compelled to name all the birds in our yard.  These included various sparrows, House Finches, Black Phoebes, doves, Western Tanagers, Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, crows and more. Why my sudden interest in birds? Their behaviors can indicate changes and types of weather and climate.
Long before the invention of meteorological tools to help predict weather, people relied on “natural” clues. Have you ever seen seagulls here in the foothills? Most likely it indicates stormy-windy conditions at the beach. Researchers believe birds can detect changes in barometric (air) pressure and instinctively seek the shelter of their nests or may change migration routes.
This past week has been hot; days around 90 and nights in the upper 50s. All this will come to an end by the weekend and should continue into next week as an onshore flow will dominate. Expect cooler temperatures – 60s and 70s, foggy mornings with possible drizzle. Umbrella?
Enjoy Mother’s Day and the memories that remain forever …

Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta Valley resident and Official Skywarn Spotter for the National Weather Service. Reach her at