1879: Eclipse Birds
Title text: 'Hey! Put her down!' 'No, it's ok! The next chance for me to be carried to a blood cauldron isn't until 2024!'
This comic is the fourth of five consecutive comics published in the week before and during the solar eclipse occurring on Monday, August 21, 2017 which was visible as a total solar eclipse within a band across the contiguous United States from west to east and visible as a partial eclipse across the entire contiguous United States and beyond. The other comics are 1876: Eclipse Searches, 1877: Eclipse Science, 1878: Earth Orbital Diagram, and 1880: Eclipse Review.
During an eclipse, birds and other animals show atypical behavior like they do in the case of the darkness in the night and the following sunrise. Birds stop singing during totality, then greet the return of the sun with a "dawn chorus". Owls, however, become active as do mosquitoes. But it's not easy to find studies about this behavior because the main focus lies mostly on the eclipse itself. And total solar eclipses are rare -- roughly every 18 months and then mostly not in the same region of this world. A nice article can be found here: Effects of the 2001 total solar eclipse on African wildlife. Hippos were so confused that their daily routine even on the next day was not back to normal. Baboons stopped feeding and a sun squirrel that fed in the afternoons didn't do so, while other larger animals like crocodiles, zebras, or lions were not affected. Butterflies settled and did not restart flying, mosquitoes appeared and settled before reappearing in the evening. Also, bees moved into a hive and didn't come out until the next morning.
After the 2017 eclipse, NASA published some highlights. A video presents chirping crickets in Jefferson City, Missouri. The California Academy of Sciences supports a citizen science project about life responds.
In this comic, Cueball tells Megan that this will happen. However, instead of just cheeping and screeching in a different pattern than birds actually do during an eclipse, in the comic, the birds begin to prepare to make a sacrifice to appease their gods, similar to how ancient cultures like the Aztecs are said to have acted. Megan remains strangely nonchalant, offering only a clichéd admiration of nature as the birds around her use fluent English to set up a sacrificial ritual.
In the title text, it turns out that the birds are about to sacrifice Megan, and Cueball tells them to stop. But Megan tells him it is OK as she wants to try experiencing being carried to a blood cauldron as she won't get another chance until the next eclipse in the US on 8th of April, 2024. (A small region around Carbondale, Illinois will experience two total eclipses in 7 years).
- [Cueball and Megan standing together looking to the right.]
- Cueball: I heard that during an eclipse the birds all freak out.
- Megan: I guess we'll see!
- [Beat panel, the white background sky turns at the top slightly darker.]
- [As the sky turns to dusk sounds can be heard. It's written above Cueball and Megan inside squiggly bubbles.]
- Chirp Chirp!
- Peep peep peep!
- [The sky is now nearly dark, more at the top of the panel. The sounds continue, written in similar bubbles.]
- Clank clank clank
- The time is upon us!
- Prepare the blood cauldron!
- Cueball: Wow.
- Megan: Isn't nature amazing?
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