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Roy G. Biv

May 14, 2019

Mnemonics* are commonly used to help children (and some adults) remember facts or build vocabulary (e.g., BEDMAS = order of mathematical operations: Brackets, Exponentiation, Division, Multiplication, Addition, Subtraction; “My Very Educated Mother Just Showed Us Nine Planets” = the planets [pre-2006] in our solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto). There are probably hundreds in use, but I only stumbled across “Roy G. Biv” a year ago, as (of all things) a decorating tip. ROY G. BIV is the mnemonic for remembering the colours of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

Rainbow2018I’ve seen a dozen or more rainbows in my lifetime – occasionally out the windows of my own home when the sun would come out immediately after a thunderstorm had passed, and several times while travelling on a rainy day when the sun would burst through the clouds to reward my perseverance in driving in a downpour. Once, on my way to work, I drove nearly 30 minutes “into” a full arch rainbow; I couldn’t help hoping I would eventually drive right under it! This photo was taken last year from the 2nd floor balcony off my bedroom (it was actually a double rainbow for several minutes; if you look closely, you can see the faint second arc in the top right corner). There’s something magical about rainbows, if you ask me!

FireRainbowAn even more exceptional and rare type of rainbow is a “fire rainbow” (more commonly known as a “rainbow cloud” or an “iridescent cloud”). These appear when cumulus clouds (the big fluffy ones we drew as children) boil upwards, pushing layers of air high into the atmosphere, where it expands and cools. If the moisture in the air condenses suddenly, it forms a cap cloud (or “pileus”) with tiny droplets that diffract the sunlight and scatter it. I’ve been lucky enough to see fire rainbows on three different occasions! They are truly special.

This year, as I’ve been watching the springtime activity taking place outside my windows, I’ve come to see another kind of rainbow – one made up of birds! In addition to the browns and greys and blacks of sparrows and nuthatches and chickadees and juncos and wrens (as well as the slightly more colourful red-breasted grosbeaks, robins, red-winged blackbirds, and myriad types of woodpeckers that inhabit my forest), I have:

Red Cardinals (at least two pairs)


Orange Baltimore Orioles (last year I had a single one; this year I have a whole flock)


Yellow Goldfinches (dozens and dozens of them!)


Green (the iridescent backs of) Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (this dominant male spends most of his day sitting on my clothesline, daring any other males to challenge him)


Blue Jays (several families; they are very noisy and often bully the other birds at the feeders)


Indigo Buntings (several pairs)



Violet (well, Purple, actually, but isn’t that the same thing?) Martins (one of our near neighbours has a martin house in their front yard, so we get the occasional visitor looking for a free meal)



VenueOfVultures2019In addition to the never-ending enjoyment of observing these birds visiting my feeders, I also love watching my venue of turkey vultures (there are around 15 – 20 in the group) come and go every day. They arrive “home” around 5:30 every evening, sweeping and soaring overhead until one of them chooses a tree to roost in overnight (there are several on my property that are, apparently, quite suitable – the droppings and feathers at their base attests to their popularity). As they settle in, the noise they make shuffling about with their six foot wingspans flapping sounds like someone whacking a rug with a broom. Between 7:00 and 7:30 each morning, they “head off to work”, one by one. As ugly as they may be up close, I find them magnificent and love that they’ve chosen our property every year as their “home base”.

Life in the country is proving to be filled with an unlimited variety of remarkable experiences and spectacles – there’s literally something new every single day. I can’t wait to see what other natural wonders await me as I enjoy life here on … the other side of 55.


  1. Margy permalink
    May 17, 2019 8:02 pm

    You have an exceptional variety of birds! I see most of your species when I am in AZ, but a different lot here at the AB house. Like you, I think the turkey vultures are the most outstanding! We often see them flying over head in AZ! We also have Great Horned Owls at both places.

    • May 17, 2019 10:11 pm

      I’ve heard an owl but haven’t seen them. We have red tailed hawks here, too.

  2. May 16, 2019 11:10 am

    Just beautiful — a rainbow of birds! What a clever way of showing us your feathered friends! With an additional and larger bird feeder up now and more visible through our kitchen windows, we’ve been observing more birdies and different varieties too. 🙂 Life in the country is so very good, isn’t it?

    • May 16, 2019 11:23 am

      I’ve been experimenting with different types of feeders and seed (I found one with pepper in it – the birds love it but the squirrels stay away). The finches devour the niger seed (in their new feeder); I’m refilling it every day. And the orioles have figured out the hummingbird feeders (my little male hummingbird chases them away). It seems something new arrives every day. Sometimes its hard to get anything done; I just want to sit and watch the birds. I love it out here!

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