It’s autumn and the sun casts long, different and earlier shadows on Peyton Place.
And most of the birds have gone to heaven.
I first heard that explanation about the disappearance of birds in the fall from my late mother-in-law, Ruth Samuels. She loved wild birds, as I do, and kept a bird feeder in her back yard year-round.
She noticed, as I do, that shortly after the autumnal equinox, the birds seem to disappear from the feeders. Hummingbirds are most noticeable, but that is to be expected. They begin their long flight to Central America in mid- to late September.
But where do the other birds go? Some are neo-tropicals, as are the hummers. But where do the cardinals go? And many varieties of sparrows? They disappear but return at the first snowfall or cold wind.
I suspect it’s the fact the fall season provides an almost infinite supply of seeds and lots of insects getting in the last of summer before they die or burrow in the ground for the long winter ahead.
As I write this, I haven’t seen a cardinal or tree sparrow for more than a month. But I know that both will return to decorate my front yard empress tree in the drab winter months.
A few birds are gone permanently. When I was a child, we had bobwhites. They spent the summer on neighbor John Ray’s corn. “Bob white” was their song and occasionally “bob-bob-white.”
West Virginia naturalists say an exceptionally snowy winter killed them off.
I used to hear whippoorwills in the spring. No more. But neighbors in other hollows nearby say they still hear them. I wish they would come back.
But ornithologists say birds in the U.S. and Canada are vanishing. They say birds in North America have decreased by 3 billion, or 29 percent, over the past half-century. They don’t know why exactly. Perhaps its intrusion into their habitats. Maybe the use of insecticides have killed them and their food. Or perhaps it’s climate change.
No matter the reason, I suspect it involves Homo sapiens. As time marches on, it becomes clearer that people are the enemy of Ma Earth. And I fear we won’t learn we are the enemy before Nature attacks us and eliminates us as a pest.
When that happens, all the birds that are disappearing may come back from heaven.