Thursday, October 27, 2011

Overheard in my Inbox: Geese on the Field

What: My colleague Sharon e-mails me about the Canada Geese overtaking the field. This morning I counted upwards of 50. They're like little cows with wings—black and white and preoccupied with grazing.
Where: Walker Open Field
Observers: Sharon, Abbie, Jenny—everyone who looks, really
Date/Time: Thursday, October 27 at 11:17 am
Conditions: Anticipating winter
Every morning I watch the geese roaming the field, their numbers ramping up every week. The phenomenon of their increasing numbers—or more accurately, the phenomenon of noticing this phenomenon—wakes me up. I've been dozing off, letting the Open Phenology project hibernate. But Sharon's message reminded me of the impulse to notice, record, and investigate. Recently I've been fantasizing about a superhuman ability to make observations that are perfectly focused and filtered. For example:
  • The volume and variety of bird songs heard from my driveway at 8:30 am. Since my attention has waxed and waned, I missed, for example, marking the moment when I stopped hearing the House Wren, or noticing how August's lull is sandwiched between American Robins singing in June and Black-Capped Chickadees buzzing in October.
  • The volume and frequency of cicada songs. In late summer, the cicadas' sirens are so constant you can wander for blocks and always be in ear-shot. It's like the auditory equivalent of Tarzan swinging from vine to vine—an uninterrupted passage.
  • The number of geese on the Open Field.
What if we were to graph these phenomena through time? What kinds of bell curves, peaks and valleys, or anomalies would appear?

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