Top News

The Journal Pioneer

WEATHER U: Singing in the rain

What a shot!  Phil Vogler snapped this one in his backyard in Berwick, N.S.  He correctly points out that the European starling is not commonly appreciated, but is quite beautiful.
What a shot! Phil Vogler snapped this one in his backyard in Berwick, N.S. He correctly points out that the European starling is not commonly appreciated, but is quite beautiful. - Phil Vogler

My father used to say, “If it doesn’t rain we don’t eat”; maybe that’s why I love a good soaking.

I do realize that too much is not good and that many people are dealing with devastating floods right across the country.  My heart goes out to them.

Grandma used to love a soft, spring rain and I would often see her standing alone on the covered porch while the earth was being refreshed.  I stopped asking her what she was doing because each time I did, she would say the same thing: “I’m listening to the birds – they sound different when it rains.” I didn’t really give that very much thought until years later. 

What happens to bird song in the rain is very similar to the effect raindrops have on light waves.  Much like raindrops take light and twist the spectrum into components to give us rainbows, the raindrops take the sound waves of the bird song and distort them.  The lovely song of the warbler we thought we knew, can sound quite foreign on a rainy day. 

The rain has another interesting effect on the bird song; water affects the directionality of the sound.  Has this ever happened to you?  You think you hear a cardinal singing from a particular tree.  You search in vain for a good view of it – but nothing!  You come to realize that the cardinal is not there, he’s over in a tree in a totally different direction.  You can test this by dipping a straw into a glass of water.  You’ll see the straw appear to separate and divert off into a different direction. 

And finally, just like a drop of water can magnify an image, the raindrop can amplify the sound of the bird’s notes.  

I feel there are two interesting lessons here: rain can be beautiful and not all learning takes place in a classroom.

Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.

Recent Stories