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Although not the same as the wild pasqueflowers now blooming along the Mesa Trail, these fuzzy flowers unfurled in a Frasier garden. (Glenn Cushman / Courtesy photo)
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This continuation of our March “Small Wonders” column, is inspired by Barbara Kinsolver’s book of the same name. Finding wonder is one way to hold despair at bay.

In the old days — just a month ago? — we might have dismissed a common bird as “just a” house finch. Now we banish the phrase “just a” from our vocabulary as we remember Walt Whitman’s line, “a mouse is miracle enough,” and embrace even the commonplace miracles around us, such as…

This Canada goose gander perches atop cars while guarding a hidden nest. Soon, we hope, yellow fuzz-balls will toddle across the road to Thunderbird Lake. (Glenn Cushman / Courtesy photo)
  • Cassin’s finches with raspberry caps and pale pink breasts descending by the dozens on Boulder following the two big snowstorms in mid-April. One person counted 75 around their house, and at least 8 joined house finch flocks near Frazier. Even long-time birdwatchers are amazed at this unprecedented irruption and wonder… why?
  • Crows carrying sticks into a blue spruce for nesting. Watch for caucuses of crows flying east from the foothills where they roost to the grain fields in the eastern part of the county and then reversing direction in late afternoon.
  • A gull flying overhead. The late Wes Sears, a genial and beloved environmentalist, once said, “There is nothing more beautiful than a white gull against a deep blue sky.”
  • Pasqueflowers unfurling lavender cups with clusters of bright yellow stamens in the center. Pasqueflowers, spring beauties, Nuttall’s violets, and sand lilies are blooming now along foothills trails. We were thrilled to discover similar pasqueflowers in a garden at Frasier. Thanks to all those who plant gardens for passersby to enjoy!
  • A great blue heron flying over Thunderbird Lake as a full moon rose at sunset. Look for nesting colonies of herons on Crane Hollow Road and at Sawhill Ponds.
  • Canada geese landing like water skiers on a pond — stretching one wing and one leg simultaneously in a long, luxurious stretch like yoga instructors, then going into a contortionist’s pose, bending their neck all the way back to preen — males lowering their heads and charging at a rival, then returning to their mate bobbing their heads and honking in triumph.
  • Trees and shrubs budding, then leafing out, then flowering. We watch for day-to-day changes, trying for identifications. What was a mystery tree a few weeks ago is now a crabapple, whose buds unfortunately froze in the record-breaking temperature of 11 degrees.
  • Painted lady butterflies began arriving all over the county the first week of April. Sometimes we see huge irruptions of this orange, black, and white butterfly, the most widespread butterfly in the world, so be on the lookout! Their journey, not as famous as that of monarch butterflies, brings them up from southern California and Mexico. Butterfly expert Jan Chu says they probably found niches and nooks to survive the cold weather.
  • One of the great wonders is people reaching out to help each other. Thanks to Cultivate.ngo whose volunteers go grocery shopping for those who cannot get out and to friends who make us laugh and hold us in virtual hugs.

Ruth Carol and Glenn Cushman are the authors of Boulder Hiking Trails, 5 th ed., published by West Margin Press

Painted lady butterflies look fragile but have survived a long, hazardous journey to arrive in Boulder. This one is warming up on a gravel path. (Glenn Cushman / Courtesy photo)

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