This last Monday I arrived at our office to the dulcet strains of a two-stroke, gas-fired leaf blower. I’ve been sheltering in place here during the day as our office is in a City building, and with the exception of the occasional homeless vagrant sheltering in the woods behind the place, this is about as far away as I can get from others and still have electricity.
But things are changing; towns and counties in California are slowly opening up, and along with it, the ambient anthropogenic noise is increasing – both in our neighborhoods, and in the ocean.
Everyone I’ve spoken with has noticed the behavioral changes in the local fauna – particularly the birds. Last weekend the birds we’re having such a dawn chorus riot that I needed to go out and see “what the hell was going on out there!” I’m sure the continuing quietude has had a lot to do with the birds early morning confidence, but it occurred to me that visual signals may account for this as well.
My speculation is informed by the practice of placing raptor silhouettes on our windows to spook the songbirds from flying into them. Perhaps with so few airplanes in the sky, the birds don’t feel under constant threat of attack from above. They don’t know these jets are 30,000 ft. up, but they are probably quite aware of things flying above them.
I know that once we stabilize our lives through this pandemic, things will be different. It may get quieter overall. By the end of this month I will have missed four round-trip flights and as many conferences. But we’re finding ways of getting the conference work done. And the birds are loving it!
A lot of folks in my county are planting food gardens, and you can rest assured that they are unlikely to go out and buy the toxic detritus from the fossil fuel industry used to fertilize their gardens, or kill weeds and insects to grow their food.