Thunderbird over the riverbank!
It has been a noisy weekend here on the riverbank—not because of the loud-mouthed blue jays who screeched for no reason other than to keep the squirrels nervous with their racket, or the subsequently agitated gray squirrels who decided to counteract by scolding everything that moved.
Nope, that’s just the usual uproar and clamor—one you become oddly inured to when living amongst critters who seem to believe solitude merely exists for them to shatter.
The sound I’m referring to was of F-16s passing directly over the river and cottage. And not just any F-16s, either, but the beautiful red, white, and blue jet fighters of the precision demonstration squadron of the United States Air Force—the world-famous Thunderbirds.
Even the bluejays and squirrels appeared impressed to the point of being rendered uncharacteristically speechless by the thunder of a low-altitude flyover. Though traveling at throttled-back sub-supersonic speeds, the zooming jets still scream and shake the earth with their roaring engines. I’m impressed and rendered proudly speechless myself.
The Thunderbirds were in town to wow the crowds at the local air show. They regularly perform at this event, and I’ve enjoyed watching them do their breathtaking tight formations and mind-boggling displays of the aircraft’s flight capabilities for years. But it’s a special treat to have them buzzing over your yard.
Of course we riverbankers have our own air squadron—though ours lack the fancy paint scheme and instead come dressed in black feathers. The turkey vultures of the Riverbank Soaring and Scavenging Unit might not be able to fly upside-down in formation, but they could certainly teach those Thunderbird pilots a thing or two about making short work of roadkill.
A Riverbank Soaring and Scavenging Unit member shows his stuff.
And once they're in the air, the laid-back buzzards have no more need to flap their wings to stay aloft than do the Fighting Falcon aircraft flown by the Thunderbirds. Though the big birds can’t match the speed of the jets, they regularly glide through the heavy woods covering their island roost, dodging limbs and trunks, and never do more than tilt and swoop; let’s see the flyboys match those low-speed maneuvers!
The thundering Thunderbirds repeatedly flashed directly over the tops of the big sycamores in which the vultures like to huddle to spend their nights. Moreover, though the squadron’s part in the air show took place at 3:30 each afternoon, on both Saturday and Sunday many buzzards were already on the roost, having come home early due to cloudy weather and the possibility of rain. Vultures prefer to sit out storms in the comfort of home, and come winging back to their cosy leaf-covered retreat whenever the weather seems threatening.
You have to wonder what those amazing birds thought of the screaming and equally amazing jets so close overhead. Yet the witnessing turkey vultures didn’t seem perturbed or alarmed. More than once, at the same moment a jet flashed loudly nearby, I noticed one of the big birds sailing along, just above the treetops as it came in for a landing. The bird never gave the aircraft a second glance.
Thunderbird flashes over as a buzzard lands in the treetop.
(Double-click to expand and look in the tree just left of center.)
This morning, the sun is bright. The buzzards have been off their roost for hours and are by now are doubtless somewhere feasting on whatever free eats the night provided. The Thunderbirds have been long gone since yesterday. I haven’t heard a single blue jay or squirrel.
I don't think I like all this sudden silence.