Last night was the night of the lunar eclipse.
Even though it looked as if a cloud cover would obstruct the view, in the end the sky was clear enough to watch the moon wander through the Earth’s shadow, disappear and appear again.
Watching this I was reminded of the total solar eclipse in August 1999. At that time I was at the University of Cambridge in the UK and lectures stopped for all of us to go outside and watch this rather rare “special performance.”
What struck me most was not so much the drop in light level – that was to be expected and was quite remarkable, even somewhat eerie. It did not get really pitch dark, but noticeably grey (for lack of a better word) and it felt as if temperatures had dropped quite a bit. The totally unexpected thing was that at one point the birds stopped singing. Apparently, for them, the drop in light level and temperature was the usual signal to stop their racket and settle in for the night. Which they did, at least for a short while. Once the eclipse was over, the usual chattering and singing was heard again. Maybe some of the birds even complained: “What’s up? Short night, blimey.”
Much more complaining certainly went on down in Devon and Cornwall. Those who had traveled down there to watch this rare event were disappointed twice: weather conditions were not good and getting back was near to impossible, as all major roads were gridlocked with rather miffed eclipse watchers.
I assume the twittering down there was rather more graphic than that of the birds on the lecture site in Cambridge.