Science · November 13, 2008

Hummingbird song

It was a beautiful morning; calm sunshine and cool while still plenty warm enough for a short-sleeve shirt. On mornings like this I would usually ride my bike to work, but on this day I drove my car so that I could take care of an errand before work.

The company where I work started out as a single manufacturing building, but over the years it has become a sprawling campus. There are many buildings and parking lots, but they are downplayed by lots of grassy areas with trees and shrubs and an amazing amount of flowers. The flowers are in full bloom on this day, and everything is green and lush.

I love days like this. Cool, clean air that seems to fill me with energy. Blue sky and birdsong.

I heard a familiar call and stopped for a moment to scan the top of a nearby Eucalyptus tree. Fresno is home to a lot of hummingbirds, but you would never know it just by looking. These little birds keep out of sight at the tops of trees and are rarely seen near the ground. I’ve met people who have lived in Fresno for years and never seen a hummingbird outside of a photo or video.

But my father taught me to appreciate and recognize birdsong, and I’ve learned to recognize the “squeaky-door with high-pitched radio static” call of the local hummingbirds. I hear them everywhere outside. And if I take a moment and focus on the hummingbird’s call I can actually find him – right there! He’s sitting on a small branch at the top of the Eucalyptus tree, singing his little heart out to a potential girlfriend. I silently wish him luck and move on.

It sounds like a beautiful spring morning doesn’t it? Perhaps sometime in May or early June?

No. This happened today, November 13th.

This isn’t some sort of “Indian Summer” because the weather here has yet to drop below 45 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Autumn for Fresno usually means the beginning of the rainy season, and we have had our first major rainfall. (I hope it rains a lot more – California is in a drought.) The summer didn’t seem any hotter than usual for Fresno – at least not to me. But it stayed warm longer. It’s been warm enough to go swimming here until the week of Halloween, and today’s weather is just beautiful.

Is this a symptom of climate change? I dunno – I’m not a scientist. I think that Bush buried one of the best tools that we could have used to prove beyond a doubt to the majority of the worst climate change deniers that climate change is real and ongoing. As beautiful as it is this morning, I feel vaguely uneasy at what it might imply.

I hope that Obama’s administration resurrects DSCVR so that we can know if my beautiful day today is natural, or man-made.