Hail Hail to Bird Calls

New England thunder storm

Jim Davis/Boston Globe staff.

New England experienced some exquisite, exciting, and potentially perilous storms this week.

I expected them…because of the birds.

After an eye-opening day at Legoland with my daughter andLEGOLAND the grandkids (a day much anticipated by the kids, rather dreaded by me – all expectations were met, ahem), we returned to the bucolic suburbs outside of Boston. The sun shone like amber, interspersed with menacing dark clouds.

I thought I should call our local weather person – that would be my man. He’s the go-to guy in our family with any weather questions, forecasts, or concerns. First thing every morning he gives me a lengthy report about that day’s jet stream, convection, air mass, prevailing wind, atmospheric pressure, and so forth. I nod my head like it all makes sense to me, then look out the window and say, “ah, a cloudy day.”

As I carried my sleeping 2-year-old grandson from the car to his house (Legoland was an exhausting endeavor), huge hawks overhead squawked and squealed in surreal sounds I’d never heard before. Big black cumulous clouds gathered above us, and wind whipped the trees. Once I settled the sleeping babe inside, I ran back outside to call my weather guy and get the scoop.

“Nope, the forecast is that the thunder and hail will miss us,” he informed me. I could barely hear him because of the distressed bird cries.

“What’s that racket?” my guy asked over the phone.

“The birds disagree with your prognostication!” I shouted, but we were disconnected with the crack of lightening.

bird calls, wildlife, New England storm, children's book

Illustrated by Shelley Steinle.

As I raced to the safety of indoors, I thought of Bert and Bessie, my sparrows. Well, the sparrows who are the heroes in the children’s book I’m writing, illustrated by the amazing artist, Shelly Steinle. My research found that even sparrows warn each other with great abandon when there’s danger in the air, or the ground.

Suddenly, the temperature dropped from almost 90 to 70 degrees as outside hanging baskets swirled in distemper, and birds sheltered themselves in the swaying leafy trees. Golf-sized hail landed on the ground and memories of winter slapped themselves to the forefront of my disbelieving brain.hail, summer storm

Forget about checking your radio/TV/computer/favorite guy to find out if it’s safe to go outside.

Just listen to your local birds.

New England weather, bird feather, stormy

After the Storm.

75 thoughts on “Hail Hail to Bird Calls

  1. Oh I love this! We used to have a local character who eventually became famous, especially in the north of England; he was called Bill Foggitt and he
    studied the behaviour of moles, flies, pine cones and seaweed to predict the weather, often beating the weather forecasters!. he died in 2004 aged 91.
    I love how nature works and can tell us so much.

    Your book sounds delightful and the artwork is fabulous. When will it be available? I have five grandchildren all six years and under! 😊

    • I wonder if I’ll be a local character in the future, cawing back at the hawks, pointing them out name by name (which I’ve given them). But Bill Foggitt sounds like someone you should write a poem about! Your poetry, dear one, is sublime.
      My children’s book’s arrival is dependent now on the artist. She is an amazing craftswomen, and she is detailing Bert and Bessie page by page. I can’t wait to see each illustration (so far I’ve seen six). Then we’ll publish the book and I’ll shout it out to the world. I have six grandkiddies 7 and under. So much fun, right?

  2. My guy is another weather geek and the go to all things weather in our family! The first thing I check in the morning – since it’s still dark when I get up – is my weather app, then promptly forget the forecast until he gets up and gives me the hour by hour rundown…”better go to the store before 11 when the rain should be heavy, or wait until after 2 when the front will have passed thru….”
    How exciting about your children’s book! The bird illustrations are beautiful! Please reserve 2 copies for me! On my bucket list is to write a children’s book – the germ of which has been floating around for years.

    • Smiling at the similarities of B and J. Their weather commentary is very caring, though, isn’t it.
      I’m really excited about my picture book – Birds of Paradise. When Shelley completes the illustrations, we’ll be ready to publish it. I can’t wait; your two books are already reserved. 😉

  3. Looks like my mom picked a good time to travel west. (She lives in New Hampshire.) Yikes. Glad you ‘weathered’ it okay. Maybe the same can’t be said for Legoland? 😉 But the picture is wonderful!

    • Thanks, Cindy. I can’t take credit for it – kudos to Boston Globe and their photographer. But I can take credit for listening to the birds. Oh, speaking of…(re your blog) I’d add that to my list of movies I liked – The Birds! You?

  4. My guy is the same way about the weather. I never know what the day will hold, weather-wise, beyond the moment I look outside. He keeps me apprised of any upcoming rain, etc. Now I know I can also listen to the birds. The illustration of Bert and Bessie are great! 🙂

    • Sometimes I ask my guy to not tell me what’s ahead with the weather. I kinda prefer to just enjoy the sun, or cloud, at the moment!
      I’m thrilled with Shelley’s illustrations – she’s studying my text carefully to get Bert and Bessie just right. Fun!

  5. This is so well written. I hung on every word. Then when I got to the part about Bert and Bessie I thought, “Oh, she’s just like me!” My mother always told me that the birds talked to us if we would only listen. Lovely post!

    • I do enjoy watching the birds fly on and off our birdfeeders around our house, wondering what they’re saying to each other. Many times it just seems like ‘Hey, get off, it’s my turn!’ 😉

  6. Oh, I really loved this post. I listen to the bird all of the time, as I spend a lot of time outdoor and I’ve noticed similar activity before a storm. I loved that you wrote it into a post. I also love your header. You write well! Have you ever entered the Erma Bombeck’s writing contests? The next one is in early 2016. You can look it up on line, if interested.

    • Thank you so much for your comments! A few others have suggested the Erma Bombeck contests – I’ll have to look into that. Right now, I’m too busy checking out the birds and writing a lovely story about them. The nice thing is that they so appreciate my birdfeeders – summer AND winter.

  7. Wondering if humans have lost whatever innate senses we once had in connecting with our natural world… Even with all of our technology, seems like we’re still pretty clueless compared to other animals! There are so many reports of animal behavior changing drastically as natural disasters have approached, like animals finding higher ground before tsunamis hit, marine life changing their swimming patterns, etc. I am in the same boat as everyone else – looking at the weather channel and guessing;)

    Twice this summer I have been awakened to a fox close by, only because the birds around me suddenly changed their vocalizations, and got my attention. So amazing what we find out when we tune in!

    *I’m very much looking forward to spending time with Bert and Bessie!

    • I think you’re right – we humans have lost the ability to sense what the animals sense. When I lived in the SF bay area, my golden at the time, Tory, ran down to the basement (where she never wanted to go) about an hour before a big earthquake, and stayed there, still as a stone. She KNEW.

  8. Knowing the weather, what is coming… so much a part of our farming life. I am the one looking at the weather all the time at our house. In the growing months… do we have to water? In the Winter months, do I need to close the studio… It would be nice to not have a need to know.

    • Good point, Maria. Farmers must be much more attuned to the weather than the rest of us. Weather is crucial to your business. As far as being in a situation at some point in which you don’t need to know, I think that there is something still innate in us humans that demands we watch and be concerned about the weather. I know my guy does! :-0

  9. A little late reading this. Mmmm….Legoland and thunderstorms makes for lots of excitement, speaking of which, I finally got your book, ‘The Right Wrong Man, and have begun reading it. Looking forward to some excitement there too.

    • Yay, Bonnie! I hope Meredith and her men are keeping you good company this August. Let me know if they kept you up at night – many readers have ‘complained’ that they didn’t want to stop turning the pages. Quite the opposite excitement from a day at LEGOLAND, for sure.

    • LEGOLAND is almost as much fun as the day before Christmas, for my grandkiddies. Me? give me hot chocolate in front of the fireplace in December instead, any time. Tee hee. Actually, it was quite fun for all. But no where near as exciting as flyboarding…!!!

  10. I’m the weather geek in this family, Pam. We get some beauties where we live now, but when we lived in the colder climate we often had hail.

    Have you seen the world wind and ocean chart? I look at it a lot and have been watching the typhoon near China. If your guy hasn’t seen it yet, I think he’ll like it – the earth will turn if you just drag with your mouse, you can get close-ups by just clicking on it. http://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=294.82,23.45,446
    I often watch the birds and start getting nervous when they scream and fly away – I feel like following them lol, this means a big storm is coming 😉

    • Thanks for the link to the earth chart. I sent it on to my guy, which means even more reasons he’ll have to miss my dinner call – this will keep him glued to the computer. 🙂 Me? I just listen to the birds…

  11. Thank you for sharing this Pam. We can learn SO much by just getting out and observing. My dad died when I was 15, as a traditional gentleman family farmer he knew the weather so well from his observations around him. As a teenager, I showed so little respect for his knowledge. Something I have regretted, but in his memory, knowledge I am slowly learning to gain in my own observations around me.

    • I imagine that you also notice/observe much while you’re running. I know that my walking time is not only contemplative – it helps me learn how to observe every little twig, and every bird on those twigs.

  12. I grew up knowing that nature was filled with a wisdom of her own. It’s really all around us.

    The rain reached us today in Nova Scotia. The last I heard the weather people said “cloudy” for today. Looks as though I should have asked some sparrows instead. 😉 The illustrations for your book are beautiful!

    • The sparrows always know! I study them outside my window – they communicate more to themselves than we humans realize. Shelley Steinle, my illustrator, is a great observer of all birds. I can’t wait until all of her drawings are complete.
      I love Nova Scotia – so wonderful to see it in your eyes.

    • The funny thing is that when I began this blog post, I had no intention of mentioning Bert and Bessie (the characters in my upcoming children’s book). But they insisted to get a tweet in… 🙂

  13. My man always informs me about the latest weather reports. He didn’t tell me about the thunderstorm we had here in Santa Cruz last week . There was a little bit of rain, just a few drops but better than nothing . Your children’s book looks great, I can’t wait to get it.m

    • I think it’s funny when our guys ‘miss’ something – they still won’t acknowledge that we humans can’t always understand the vagaries of weather – but the birds certainly do!
      I’ll keep you posted about the progress of my children’s book. Shelley’s illustrations are just birdy-licious!!

  14. The birds always know best! And I didn’t know you were working on a children’s book..how exciting! I just love that illustration pictured here. I’m a big fan of children’s literature and will anxiously await your book.

    • Thanks, Susan. Birds of Paradise is a picture book I wrote quite a while ago. I read it to my 5-year-old granddaughter and she was mesmerized. With Shelley’s illustrations, I think I have a winner! But the artistic process is slow, as you know. 🙂

  15. I know the storm of which you speak! It missed me, but my mom’s house (in Kittery) was nailed. Branches from her catalpa had broken off and fallen into the road, blocking traffic. It was a mess! I agree with you about birds. They’re wonderful at helping us know when the weather is going to take a turn for the worst.

    I can’t wait to hear more about your book — how exciting!

    • Several of my (beloved) flower pots on our deck got knocked over. I’ve been trying to bring them back to life, but I may be failing. Even our large tomato pot was knocked sideways onto the ground. Fortunately, the tomatoes are still turning red. 🙂 We must live close to each other? Sounds like we have another good rainstorm coming our way today.

  16. Birds and other wildlife really do understand the weather so much better than we do. Being back near a (for-now) rural area means so many more animals we can turn to for a weather report—or just enjoy watching!

  17. Fabulous. In addition to your distain for Legoland, I’m all in with the “get back to nature” call! And I sure miss those east coast storms. I thoroughly enjoyed this post on many levels!

    • That was a riveting post! 2010 – I was in CA when you wrote that post, basking in warm sun and NO WEATHER. I’m just hoping your blue jay has friends who live near me now. I’m listening…!
      P.S. Last week right after our storm, as I was writing the post about the birds, I was walking in thought, and wham, saw the bird feather on the sidewalk in front of me. A sign?? I took the shot and looked to the sky above and sent a silent thank you.

  18. Perfect Pam…the animals definitely know better than any weather man! My cat, Zoee hates storms…if she is hiding behind the couch…I know what is coming!

  19. All I have to do to know when the winds are really shifting and a storm is coming is to look down at my feet. If my dog is sitting on top of them under my desk, we are in for a big downpour 🙂 Thanks for sharing via Women of Midlife!

    • 🙂 That’s so true, our pets tell us what’s going on outside, either shivering at our feet (during the day and a rainstorm), or on the bed (where ours is not allowed, except for thunderstorms!). Thanks so much for stopping by, Beth!

  20. Whoosh, that was some temperature drop Pam. I’m not so attuned to nature – I wouldn’t have noticed the birds. I was however among a flock of joggers the other evening who suddenly changed behaviour (a burst of speed) as a spectacular electrical storm broke over the island 🙂

    • Ha ha. Yes, a flock of joggers can be quite a view to behold. Particularly when they are chased by an electrical storm! I would imagine you get some neat storms there in the original “Jersey.”

    • The illustrator is a perfectionist who wants to get the birds, and their expressions, just right. She cannot be rushed, as no good things should be! So I’m patient and kind and encouraging. She sends me photos of a new illustration every month or so, and I’m blown away (sort of a pun with birds and flying and the wind – sort of). 🙂

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