Chirps and Whistles

Climate Change

            Marble Falls      Living in cities, especially on the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast, and even along the bayous and rivers of the region, we are acclimated to certain patterns of nature.  We watch the water rising in the bayou when there are storms in the Gulf.  We know how to respond to hurricane watches and warming, when to stay and when to run.  We recognize the Mississippi kites, herons, egrets and redwing blackbirds all around the bayou and keep our eyes open for alligators and nutria.  In the city, the jays and cardinals push the smaller birds away from the feeder, contending with cats and squirrels for whatever is on offer.

It’s been a while since we were in a tornado warning, but in the Ozarks, the warning blurted out of my phone at exactly 3 AM.  My bleary eyes couldn’t miss the thunder and lightning making fireworks displays all over the mountain side.  The wind whistling wasn’t a metaphor, but a blaring referee call that this was serious.  I was for pulling the covers up and turning on my side away from the window, but mi companera, always attuned to weather terrorism from diverse media, was up like a shot.  Finally gripping reality, I found her and my dog in the basement, huddled in the narrow guest bed there.  Were we safe?  Maybe so, who knows?  For some reason, I had believed that tornados were less likely in mountainous and hilly terrain and more common in the plains.  An early morning web search agreed that conditions are ideal in the flatlands of the Midwest, but that tornados find elevations amenable and are more dangerous, as they try to seek higher ground and less so on the way down.

The warnings ended after several extensions by 4 AM.  At dawn, we awoke to find little sign of rain and an almost cloudless, bright sunny day.  The morning brought something else interestingly in our “wild kingdom.”  We are huge fans of birds, but it would be a mistake to call us birders, as I know intimately from the love and labor of one of my oldest friends.  We always have a cacophony of birds from whippoorwills to eagles to hummingbirds, but this was a chirping, birdsong concert without parallel.

Luckily, there’s “an app for that,” the wonderful and amazing Merlin produced by Cornell University, and when mi amor pulled it up on her phone within minutes names common and unknown to us came rushing into the app and scrolling down the screen.  The avian parade included:

    Indigo Bunting, Red-eyed vireo, Chimney Swift, American Goldfinch, Carolina Wren, Olive-sided Flicker, Northern Cardinal, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Tufted Tit-mouse, American Crow, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Northern Parula, Pine Siskin, Black & White Warbler, Chipping Sparrow, Night-breasted Nuthatch, American Robin, Blue Grosbeck, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Wood Peewee, Summer Tanager, and Yellow Throated Vireo.

Wow!  We had seen some and heard others before, but nothing on this order of magnitude.

Had the passing whistling of the storm brought them all out to celebrate another day?  Was this just a special summer spectacular?  Cicadas had broken out recently in this part of the Ozarks, and we could hear and see them flying about here and there.  Had this flying squadron come together as part of a feeding frenzy?

We don’t know, but we are being reminded anew about respect for nature’s warnings and power, as well as its bounty and beauty.  How wonderful is that?!?