Saturday, March 2, 2013

What ARE Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky?

I posted about this title about five years ago when I began this blog, but thought it was time to explain again.

 radar image of migrating birds        

Twenty years ago, when meteorologists saw this phenomenon on their radar, when there wasn't any precipitation, they called it "scattered showers in a clear sky." They eventually found out that what they were seeing were migrating birds! When I read this little factoid, the title just grabbed me, and I wrote this poem:

Scattered Showers in a Clear Sky

What else looks different from far ?
What you expect it to be
it is not.
Four in the morning,
Flurry on the radar screen.
How many miles away
In the upper atmosphere?
We need another name for that direction.
North is different on a map.

It looks like
Scattered showers in a clear sky,
and so the meteorologist calls them.
How did they finally discover
that dust on the radar was
a wide band of warblers,
 storm of black-throated blues,
 tornado of  tanagers,
powder of parulas,
blizzard of buntings?

Prothonotaries enter a preliminary statement
across the night sky.
Redstarts rush down to the new trees.

We need another name for that direction.
North is different on a map.

It became the title of my second book, published by Plain View Press in 2007.  
I still love the thought of those clouds of birds flying by night, showing up on the radar.
It's March now, and some of them will be starting on their journey back to north and nesting season.

logo from New River Birding Festival... art by Julie Zickefoose

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