1879: Eclipse Birds

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Eclipse Birds
'Hey! Put her down!' 'No, it's ok! The next chance for me to be carried to a blood cauldron isn't until 2024!'
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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Looks more like Megan is the one being sacrificed to me, instead of a generic bird - "Put her down!" would be Cueballs line then. 06:35, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

Clearly that is the joke. Have corrected this --Kynde (talk) 09:07, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

It's strange the shadow is coming from the top and not from one side, isn't ? I would be frightened too... 07:56, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

Not so much. 100% of total eclipses happen at noon. Picture the geometry in your head: when can the moon be exactly between Earth and sun? Nitpicking (talk) 19:12, 6 January 2023 (UTC)
"100% of total eclipses happen at noon"... No, 100% do not. You can get a typical Totality, for any given location on the path that will experience one, surprisingly close to dawn and dusk. Even at the moment of sunrise/sunset.
Though the next TSE is hybrid ('only' annular at its extremities, where it's so lw), even its point of maximum (if that's what you mean) will be at 04:17:56 UTC at 9.6°S 125.8°E, which gives it a local time (geographical, not political) of about 12:40, by my calculations, and there's a lot more wriggle-room for Totalities at significantly higher (N/S) latitudes to be heading further still away from local noon. And, don't forget, the higher latitudes also have the Sun's maximum angle above the horizon be correspondingly closer to the horizon too, for more circumpolar eclipse tracks instead of equator-crossing ones. Then you'd never get the shadow overhead. 23:06, 6 January 2023 (UTC)

Would "Kachunk" and "clank clank clank" be onomatopoeia to describe the moving of the blood cauldron, rather than the bird sound? Or, given that the sounds are shown in the same manner as the rest of the bird noises, could this be the birds deliberately mimicking the sound that moving a cauldron could make? Or am I just reading in far too much into this, there is no hidden meaning, and I really need to get out more? 11:17, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

I think they are preparing weapons. Chrullrich (talk) 04:53, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
Onomatopoeia is words that sound like the thing/action/whatever they describe, for example knock. Since Kachunk and clank are not words, but only sounds [citation needed] it is not onomatopoeia. But yes, it is not a word, but I think it is the sound of either the blood cauldron or from any device to get the blood out of megan. Lupo

Why are the "time is upon us" and "blood cauldron" lines labelled as coming from birds? I assumed they were just hysterical people talking from off-panel. --Flicky (talk) 12:12, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

I've changed the transcript. The sound may originate to birds but that's not clearly shown in the picture.--Dgbrt (talk) 13:22, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

Could it be worth mentioning this comic was released at midnight, before the eclipse? 13:39, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

It was released before midnight! I read it well before midnight yesterday, the day before the eclipse! I think it was closer to 9:00 when it was released. Definitely well before midnight! PotatoGod (talk) 16:16, 21 August 2017 (UTC)
The comic was released at 04:00 UTC on Monday, 21. August 2017. This is midnight at Randall's home (Massachusetts) and the earliest time new releases do happen. Of course more western it was still Sunday. Measured in UTC or EDT the release happened on Monday. --Dgbrt (talk) 19:55, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

I am surprised Randall did not do something animated and/or interactive for such a unique event. Anyone agree? --BigMal // 19:06, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

Aztecs were obviously professionals - that explains how they managed to execute someone before the eclipse ended. I think the birds won't be quick enough. -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:55, 21 August 2017 (UTC)

Hummm... Crocodiles are not mamlas, are they? 17:10, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

Uff, but often they eat some ;-) --Dgbrt (talk) 19:16, 22 August 2017 (UTC)
OK, let's say that we are what we eat. 23:33, 22 August 2017 (UTC)

I don't think the title text is Megan. It seems to be continuing what the birds are saying in the last panel (and yes, I feel it's clearly the birds "talking" and making noise in the last panel, that's the joke), so "her" would be a bird, and the one speaking up for her is also a bird. I feel the Megan / Cueball version is plausible, but the birds version was my first impression. NiceGuy1 (talk) 02:41, 25 August 2017 (UTC)