The summertime morning fog has begun rolling in again. I came vaguely awake early this morning as a morning bus turned the corner at the traffic light below our bedroom. The light was dim and diffuse, and I knew that the fog was hanging a few hundred feet over San Mateo, blocking the sun. There’s cold water welling up from the depths of the Pacific on the other side of the Coastal Range,. It’s making a huge fog bank every morning, and every morning some of that fog drifts inland. In San Francisco, and on the coast side of the hills to the west of us, the fog might be at ground level, but here in downtown San Mateo it hangs above us as low clouds. I love the summertime morning fog. By mid-day, the fog will disperse, exposing us to the relentless California sunshine, and most afternoons the San Mateo Gale will start whipping through town. But summer mornings are dim and cool.
Summer is upon us in the Bay area, and it is time to reflect again on Mark Twain’s description of Bay area summers:
Along in the summer, when you have suffered about four months of lustrous, pitiless sunshine, you are ready to go down on your knees and plead for rain — hail — snow — thunder and lightning — anything to break the monotony — you will take an earthquake, if you cannot do any better. And the chances are that you’ll get it, too.
At lunch time, I drove down to the marshes at Baylands Nature Preserve. A baby American Avocet stood at the edge of the water swishing its tiny beak back and forth to gather insects and other invertebrates from the water, just like the adult avocets a few yards away. Out in deeper water, a Mallard hen watched carefully over two baby Mallards swimming on either side of her. I couldn’t help noticing the difference in the way the two species raise their young: the American Avocet is a precocial species whose young are on their own from hatching, while the Mallard is an altricial species whose adults care for their babies for some time. It seemed that everywhere I looked I saw birds nesting or getting ready to nest: Cliff Swallows building their nests of clay on the side of a building, Forster’s Terns apparently nesting on a tiny island in the middle of the marsh, Marsh Wrens warbling madly in the rushes.
I looked across the bay at the green hills of the East Bay. Except some of the lower hills at the far end of the Dumbarton Bridge don’t look all that green any more. It’s been warm for the past few days, and it looks like the rains are finally over and gone, and now some of the low hills are turning summer-brown. The higher hills and mountains are still brilliant green, but it won’t be long before they turn brown, too.
Baby birds and hills turning brown: these two markers in time are as good as any to mark the end of the winter-wet season, and the beginning of the summer-dry season.