A rainy day like no other – The sounds around us

Dawn Chorus recording (great with headphones!)
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.
And while cars are again beginning to back up at stop lights, many are realizing that cars are a lot more expensive to run and maintain. And if we manage to get past the next national election before a course is set on a hideous, fossil-fueled infrastructure strategy, we may find ourselves being propelled across the country by really quiet High Speed Rail – when we can’t get our business meetings and conferences done on Zoom.
Many of my long “Shelter in Place” phone conversations include a lot of talk about the “silver linings” from this global pandemic. Less noise figures pretty high on the list.
So as I’ve suggested before, do go out in nature – or just in your own back yard, and listen to how it might sound if we do this right!

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1 comment for “A rainy day like no other – The sounds around us

  1. Liv
    June 6, 2020 at 10:04 am

    I haven’t spoken to many people about the birds. I take notice but am never too sure, so this article is great! The anthropogenic detritus came into view for me when I watched the aerial views of a helicopter flyer Micah Muzio (you tube) showing the differences in the coastal conditions.

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