Rainbows: A Rare Natural Phenomenon

Rainbows, appearing during rainfall or right after the rain stops, are a beautiful though fairly rare optical and meteorological phenomena. The multicolored arc is caused by reflection of light in water droplets in the Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun.

I captured this rainbow in the Eastern sky looking toward the Short Hill Mountains just as the rain was ending and the sun broke through the clouds.


A rainbow does not exist in a particular location in the sky or at a specific distance, but comes from any water droplets viewed from a certain angle relative to the sun’s rays. The rainbow’s apparent position depends on the observer’s location and the position of the sun. All raindrops refract and reflect the sunlight in the same way, but only the light from some raindrops reaches the observer’s eye. This light is what constitutes the rainbow for that observer.

A rainbow spans a continuous spectrum of colors. Any distinct bands perceived are an artifact of human color vision, and no banding of any type is seen in a black-and-white photo of a rainbow, only a smooth gradation of intensity to a maximum, then fading towards the other side. For colors seen by the human eye, the most commonly cited and remembered sequence is Newton’s seven-fold red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. (source: Wikipedia)

Rainbows form a complete circle, but we only see the top part of the rainbow because the Earth’s horizon blocks our view of the lower arc. To see a full circle rainbow, one would have to be able to look down on it with the sun behind you, which is only possible from an aircraft (or skydiving as in the photo below).

Circular rainbow_wikipedia

A circular rainbow observed by a skydiver over Rochelle, Illinois (Wikipedia)

Amazing things happen in Nature, but all too often we take them for granted. If we take the time to look just a little deeper, we will discover fascinating things and events unfolding around us every day.

Please don’t throw me into the briar patch!

Next to food and water, animals in the wild need places to hide from predators. Snakes, frogs, turtles, and salamanders can burrow under a log or pile of rocks or dive into the water when an enemy gets too close, and flight lets birds escape quickly out of harm’s way.

Other animals use overgrown areas and dense tangles of vegetation to hide and escape from predators. We’ve been letting our fields grow up to provide natural food sources for wildlife, and in so doing, some areas have turned into dense thickets of impenetrable vines and brambles, providing perfect hiding places.


Anyone who has read Walt Disney’s Uncle Remus tales as a child (I know I’m dating myself here!) likely remembers the one where Bre’r Rabbit pleads with the fox that has captured him, “Do whatever you want with me, but please don’t throw me into that briar patch!” Of course, everyone knows that rabbits just love briar patches. Have you ever seen a startled rabbit dart across your yard only to suddenly disappear? The rabbit likely dashed into a nearby den or thicket where it hid until the danger had passed.

As natural areas are converted to agriculture and development, man-made brush piles can provide safe places for wildlife. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries offers a simple how-to guide for building a brush pile that can be used by small animals for hiding, nesting, and den sites (http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/habitat/brush-piles-rabbit.pdf).

Even a jumbled pile of rocks can provide a safe haven.

Rock pile

Devoting just a small amount of space to provide a hiding place can benefit wildlife. Maybe there’s a corner of your yard or an area next to woods where you can pile up brush or rocks. In our human-dominated world, even the smallest oasis is welcomed by some creature.

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright. — Henry David Thoreau

very berry summer

I’m excited that the wild berries around the farm are almost ready to harvest. With all the rain, the blackberries are big and plentiful. We’ll be picking them in a few days for blackberry jam and a pie or two.

Autumn loves blackberries, too. She plays a little game where she watches me and if I make a move toward a big, fat ripe berry, she dives in and tries to get to it first! Callie, on the other hand, is much too interested in rousting rabbits, skinks, and voles from their hiding places to pay attention to berries.

The wineberries won’t be ready for a couple of weeks, but they promise to be very tasty. Of course, we’ll be in competition with the deer, snakes, birds, and other critters once they ripen – I know the animals have been keeping a watchful eye on their progress by all the little trails beneath the vines!

We’ve had a lot of thunder storms this summer and one is closing in as we make our way back to the house. We got high winds from the last one, so I’m hoping this one will be more benign.

Today, I spotted this tiny hummingbird egg at the edge of my rock garden in the front yard (that’s a quarter next to it). For the life of me, I can’t imagine how the mother bird feeds babies that are no bigger than the tip of my little finger!

One more interesting tidbit – the seeds of sweet woodruff from our old house must have been attached to the bottom of this goose when we moved. We had a bunch of it in our front yard and somehow it survived the move and sprouted from underneath the statue.

Here’s the mascot of AutumnSong watching over the farm.

“Discovering this idyllic place, we find ourselves filled with a yearning to linger here, where time stands still and beauty overwhelms.” — Unknown

water, water, everywhere

After two days of pouring rain, South Buffalo Creek has swollen to double its normal size. In some places, the creek has overrun its banks, sending the swirling water into overflow channels carved out during previous spring storms. Once the fields became saturated, the water streamed down both sides of our lane. Among the creatures enjoying this deluge are the northern peepers – the rain recharged the wetlands in our front field where these tiny frogs are in full mating mode. It’s spring in the Blue Ridge!

Photo by Jo Ann Abell

Swollen South Buffalo Creek