Wildlife, Humans And A Solar Eclipse Party | News, Sports, Jobs

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Yours truly, driving home from the eclipse.
Photo courtesy of
Steve Sorensen

Here in the northeast, we were recently treated to a relatively rare astronomical event. My brother Dan and his wife marked April 8 with an eclipse party on Cabbage Hill in Clymer. Friends from near and far came to enjoy the fun. One couple drove from Grand Rapids to witness the spectacle. Another, a cousin and his wife, motored from Minneapolis, avoiding sky-high (eclipse-high?) plane fares and car rental rates.

I said, “relatively rare,” but I could just as easily have said “fairly common.” Solar eclipses are more common than you might think, but they don’t usually get the attention this one got because most of them happen where few people live. Our planet has vast expanses of sparsely populated areas (jungle, desert, tundra), and 71% of its surface is covered by water. Eclipses happen in all those places.

In the United States, we have an excitable news media aiming to glue our eyes to various visual screens. But when an eclipse happens where not many people see it, news people don’t think it matters.

Earth’s next total solar eclipse will arrive soon enough–August 12, 2026. NASA says its totality will be visible mainly in Greenland, Iceland, Spain, and Russia. I suppose a few hyper fans will travel to see it. I’m staying home.

Solar eclipses are regular and predictable. The last one to cross a portion of the United States was in 2017. Dan, a fan of eclipses, drove to Tennessee to see that one.

How serious about this is my brother? He says when he was nine, he learned about this 2024 astronomical event and wondered if he’d still be alive to see it. I vaguely (and surprisingly) remember him talking about it. Good news–Dan is very much alive. Also good news–his knowledge of wildlife and astronomy served us well. He had six decades to plan the party, and he thought of nearly everything.

During a solar eclipse, the behavior of both animals and man is on display. On April 8, wildlife behaved as though the day had two sunrises and two sunsets–one seemingly short day, and then a shorter one–during the 24-hour period.

Dan’s wife prepared food and ordered T-shirts for all. He got us all solar eclipse glasses. Somehow, he prompted deer to move as they often do at twilight. I saw seven whitetails enter a nearby field and begin their normal crepuscular behavior about five hours early. They probably repeated it about five hours later. I heard reports of coyotes howling in the darkness. And with perfect timing, Dan got the peep frogs to become very peepy.

Apparently, Dan thought of everything. At the moment of totality, his grandson Bryce pointed out bats conducting their erratic flights. They had crawled out from under tree bark or wherever they lodge in the daytime and gave a creepy Addams Family feel to our family party. I don’t know how he got the bats to do that, but it was a nice touch.

Most eclipse watchers noted that birds went silent. When sunlight returned, they sang their morning melodies as though the sun was just coming up. I didn’t see any owls, but predatory birds probably started feeling hungry. All this wildlife activity was perfectly normal. Just the timing of daylight and darkness was off.

Humans who were in the 115-mile-wide Mexico-to-Maine swath of totality–even the ones who tend to go wild–remained clock-dependent, so we didn’t perform that extra round of morning and evening routines. If Dan could have gotten us to respond the way animals did, it would have meant putting on our pajamas, brushing our teeth, and setting our alarms. When the moon stopped blocking the light, normal would have meant rising, showering, pouring a cup of coffee, and driving to work. (Dan’s wife would have also made the bed.)

The human norm–whenever anything unusual happens–is to tell jokes. So, people complained that it wasn’t rescheduled for a less cloudy day. They offered witticisms about what flat-earthers might think. And whether mysterious cosmic powers were priming us for some apocalyptic event. (Probably not.)

One thing Dan didn’t think of. He could have had wild turkeys at the party, at least for me. I wondered how turkeys were reacting. Later, I heard reports of turkeys flying up to roost to avoid the danger of being on the ground during darkness. Ten or fifteen minutes later they flew down and gobbled as though it was the second morning of the day. So, if you ever plan a party on the day of a solar eclipse, make sure to include wild turkeys. I’ll bring my shotgun.

***

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He writes for top outdoor magazines, and won the 2015, 2018, and 2023 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.

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