Th Big Yard: Birdwatching in a Time of Quarantine
Or: The Evolution of a Pajama Lister
Day 455 of the Pandemic (June 16, 2021)
If you speak the name, it will appear. A new addition to my quantum bird theory about how birds exist and move through dimensions outside of time and space.
I’m writing about how, one morning several months ago, a black-throated sparrow appeared at the fountain. Then, right now, one materializes in the chokecherry as if on cue. Coincidence? These aren’t like the common white-crowned or chipping sparrows. This is only the second time I’ve seen the species in the yard.
Of course, birds already have a mysterious “quantum sense” that allows them to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field. Early this year, scientists at the University of Tokyo detected for the first time how this sense might work, how quantum entanglement literally lights up special photoreceptors called cryptochromes in migratory birds. “We think we have extremely strong evidence,” says biophysicist Jonathan Woodward, “that we’ve observed a purely quantum mechanical process affecting chemical activity at the cellular level.”
Quantum bird phenomenon. Schrodinger’s catbird. Human cells also contain cryptochromes. Perhaps we’re connected to the larger natural world in deep ways we don’t yet understand.
I watch the fountain and think: Where is my little red-breasted nuthatch? As soon as the question mark forms in my mind, the bird emerges in front of me as if stepping through a quantum doorway.
I test my theory by writing about the slate-colored, dark-eyed junco Bandit brought me last October. Then, one appears at the Covid fountain. I’m not kidding. It’s the middle of June! June! The junco will make the rare bird alert tomorrow.
Speaking of quantum weirdness, what are the white-crowns and Lincoln’s doing here in the middle of June? Hermit, Townsend, and yellow-rumped warblers too? And a Swainson’s thrush? They should be long gone by now. The days top out at 100 degrees F. and it’s as dry as a cow carcass on desert hardpan.
Turns out, the Lincoln’s sparrow in my yard is a new record for southeast Arizona, the kind of record that draws visitors. Mark Stevenson, the eBird administrator for the region, sends me a note about the bird: “This is the latest “spring” date Lincoln’s in eBird in SE AZ and the latest date compared to data in the bar chart in Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona.”
When I tell the wife, she says I better put on some pants.
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