On Monday morning when I flung open the curtains, two blackbirds were having breakfast in my garden and generously spraying the pathways with mulch, as was their typical practice.
I determined my day’s main task in the garden would be to rake the mulch from the lawn and redistribute it onto gardens but away from garden bed edges, in the hope the blackbirds would have nothing further to do. It was time to mow my lawn and preparation would be key.
During the clean-up, I was vaguely aware that the blackbirds weren’t following me as they do on most days when they work about a metre from me, feeling safe. So, once the lawn was clear I was relieved not to need to start again. Later in the day I walked around the house and was surprised there were no new scatters of mulch onto pathways or onto the lawn. Puzzling. By mid-afternoon I realised I hadn’t seen a bird since the first two around 7am. There were none in the garden, on pathways, in the bushes or trees, swinging on the power lines nor were birds flying. Strangely, the air was silent. No birdsong or twitter.
In the back of my mind I recalled once reading that birds, and other animals, have an instinct for knowing when an earthquake is imminent. Googling the internet confirmed this was a possibility. Other reasons were given for a loss of birds but none fitted the sudden total absence. By now, ten hours had passed and not a bird in sight. I set out to walk around my nearby streets to look for birds in the gardens of others – just in case there was something special about my place. Not a bird. Only the sound of wind through trees for company.
After considering what I would do if I was shaken awake overnight, I slipped easily off to sleep. At first light there were no birds waking and none walking or digging. But at 8.10am the blackbirds were back in great numbers and soon followed by pairs of spotted turtle doves, the occasional small wattlebird and a lone honeyeater.
Records of seismic activity showed mild tremors near Canberra and in Western Australia during those 24 hours but none in Tasmania. Regardless, I have no doubt the birds knew the earth would move. They gave the sign and flew away rather than staying to feel the mildest of earth shake.
Or am I crazy?
I think that hypothesis sounds very plausible: I think animals’ sensitivity to climatic & atmospheric indicators extends much further than we give them credit for. I’m no scientist, of course 😉 Cheers, Jon.
Not crazy, just very observant.