The return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano has become a symbol associated with Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19th of each year and is celebrated as the day that marks the annual arrival of springtime, a time of renewal and rebirth.
However, Eric and I have come to view the first day of spring, as the date upon which we first sight the red-winged blackbirds by the Upper Newport Ecological Preserve where we have jogged since 1999. Like clockwork, the red-winged blackbirds arrive and announce that it is indeed springtime.
Their name reflects the fact that the male birds have red shoulder patches when they are in flight. They migrate over the Pacific Flyway and inhabit the wetland areas of the fresh and saltwater marshes making the Back Bay one of the places where come to nest.
Last week we were sure that we would have our first sighting. But the weather turned cold as strong winds swept through Irvine. Today we went on our usual jog, and Eric observed, looking at the snow-capped mountains of Mt. Baldy against the clear blue sky that the blackbirds intuitively knew that winter was still with us. Indeed, we’ll just have to wait and see. But it is certain that once we sight the red-winged blackbirds at the Back Bay, we can be assured that Spring will have arrived just as sure as the sparrows return to the beloved Mission at San Juan Capistrano.