Terry O'Connor

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Spring – temporarily suspended


Light levels are almost back to normal, the birds have resumed their singing: the eclipse is over. Viewing conditions in our corner of Yorkshire were not ideal. A patchy, thin blanket of cloud hung low in the sky, moving only slowly. Fortuitously, a thinner patch coincided with the location of the sun for about fifteen minutes, giving us hazy views of a crescent sun. And then the arc was past its thinnest, leaning more to one side as the moon moved on. The show’s over.

The morning daylight dimmed, and the garden birds gradually fell quiet. At this point in the Spring, the trees at the end of our garden are normally a lively polyphony as hyped-up males of several species advertise their fitness. The untimely dusk brought a pause in the singing, leaving only occasional alarm calls and contact notes. The exception, briefly, was a single song thrush who clearly thought conditions indicated either dawn or dusk and therefore the time to give voice. Meanwhile, gulls that had been feeding on the river to the north of us flew over in ragged formation, heading south to places up the hill where they roost at night. We did wonder whether our local tawny owl would start to call, but he was not fooled and sensibly kept quiet.

Gradually the midmorning dusk lifted and a solitary chaffinch kicked off the resumption of normal services. Presumably a huddle of gulls around the millpond up the hill are even now looking at each other in embarrassment. “Well, I thought it was evening, didn’t you?” “No, no, I was just going with the crowd”. What other small disruptions are caused by the brief decline in light and temperature? It is the wrong time of year to tell whether evening-scented flowers would be triggered. Somebody must be pursuing this as a research project, albeit one for which the data collection opportunities are few and far between. Likelihood of Research Council funding? Negligible.

The sun is casting faint shadows now in the garden, and crowd of derived feathered dinosaurs are queuing up for sunflower seeds. Oddly, the breeze that had fallen away during the eclipse has picked up again, adding to the impression of life resuming after a strange interlude. Time to get on with the day, then, but what a good excuse that was to stand in the garden and simply observe.


  1. hampshirehog says:

    I’m in Hampshire…and it wasn’t possible to even get an idea of where the sun was…thanks to the thick cloud!

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