Monday, July 20, 2009

THUNDERBIRDS OVER THE RIVERBANK!

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.

23 comments:

Carolyn H said...

Griz: i'm glad you can enjoy the Thunderbirds. I'm not sure I'd like my quiet broken by one of those things.

Carolyn H.

The Weaver of Grass said...

No doubt the squirrels and blue jays are enjoying the silence - but I expect that by the time you are reading this, Scribe, they will be chatting away again - so enjoy the lull.

Jenn Jilks said...

We had a noisy w/e, too. Helicopters and First Responders - no fun at all.

Jain said...

"...critters who seem to believe solitude merely exists for them to shatter." Great line, just having heard a raucous murder of crows last night.

Cool that you got both of your big birds in the same shot. My dad (he would have been 88 today) was a WWII pilot and loved the Thunderbirds or any air show. I guess I prefer my birds feathered.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Carolyn…

I actually get a kick watching (or trying to) and hearing them each July.

My riverbank cottage is in no way—except by wishful fantasy, and the screening illusion of lots of greenery and summer's thick leaf canopy—remote. It isn't noisy, except with birdsong and the constant voice of the river…but I can hear man-made sounds in the background if I listen. (This is easier during winter, when the leaves are down and sounds travel farther.)

I can understand how a low-flying F-16 would discombobulate your deep-woods cabin home, though.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Ha! As I write this a squirrel is sitting on a limb near my window, scolding himself hoarse at the blue heron stnding in the river's edge nearby. Not the big bird's usual fishing spot—and apparently one the squirrel doesn't want him to develop.

You called it right!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

With the air show and all, the Thunderbirds were not the only noisemakers—we also had all sorts of planes—props, jets—big and small, helicopters, in groups and singles, flying about and occasionally passing overhead.

But the Thunderbirds were definitely the most exciting.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

I currently have a squirrel scolding (see comment to Weaver), a robin forecasting showers, two nuthatches fighting over about 20,000 seeds (never heard of sharing) and a hummingbird buzzing and squeaking at everything that moves on her side of the yard. Quite the circus…all that's missing are the elephants.

I hate to admit this, but I didn't even know I got both bird and jet in that shot until I downloaded the images from camera to desktop. The only way I could come close to "catching" a Thunderbird was to simply point the camera at the jet—not even attempting to look through the viewfinder—and snap shots during the second or two of following. My eyes were on the airplane.

I wish your father could have been here yesterday to have seen and enjoyed the show, Jain; as well as celebrate a birthday with you. What did he fly during the war?

Gail said...

Hi Grizz-

Nice post and great photos. Although, I did the 'double-click' and the photo didn't expand for me. Must be a glitch on my end.
Anyway- I am always impressed by the air shows and at the same time I like a more natural formation. I am always amazed that the geese form a perfect open triangle all in equal distance from one another and without one instrument other that their natural sense of distance. And - who decided which gese is going to be the first one flying at the point of the triangle. I am in awe of it.
And you will have your natural clattter back quickly, so get ready. :-)

Love to you
Gail
peace......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Yup, things pretty much back to normal here—which is find. It's clouding up in the west and looking a bit like rain, though—so an evening on the deck might be out.

You know, I double-clicked on all three photos. The top one expanded like it should, but neither of the two lower ones would. Don't understand what's wrong, since they were uploaded at the same time—to the same size, from the same size; they all three ought to expand…but they don't.

It isn't your browser, though.

Wanda said...

Your quiet solitude is because all your squirrels have left...they are here eating in my garden...it's as if their numbers tripled overnight...they are carrying green tomatoes up the trees.

Any low flying loud jet has me staring skyward in awe...especially if it were the Thunderbirds.

Jain said...

Scribe, Dad flew P-39s in fifty aerial combat missions. He loved flying but came home as a sole surviving son when his two brothers were killed in combat, 4 months apart.

The Solitary Walker said...

There was an air show not far from here the other weekend - at RAF Waddington near Lincoln. I didn't go to it - but saw from nearby (heard at first, it's unmistakeable) a Spitfire in the skies, and the next day a Lancaster bomber over the cathedral (some TV crew was filming it). But the Red Arrows display team is the pride of this area. They fly at air displays all over the UK. I saw them practising last week as I drove 'home' - zooming low over my car, leaving multi-coloured smoke trails.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

Your comment gave me a good laugh. I mean that—it broke me up.

Not because your garden was suddenly put under siege by hordes of hungry squirrels, but because I could just imagine all those frantic, high-strung squirrels clambering about with green tomatoes in their mouths and clutches! I think that's plumb funny! (Not so funny if they had been MY green tomatoes, of course.)

I've seen squirrels steal field corn and carry that up into the trees. Kind of weird when the cleaned cobs come falling down. Hickory nut hulls go pitter-patter; cobs go ker-whack!

Did you know that historically, Ohio squirrels sometimes really did migrate—or migrate in the sense of making a mass exodus south toward the hill country, and sometimes even onward, swimming across the Ohio River? There are old reports of thousands of squirrels suddenly on the move—probably because of local mast crop failure.

My squirrels have not, I assure you, gone anywhere. For the past half hour or so I've watched at least a half dozen of the little bushy-tailed tree rats climb the big sycamore at the corner of the drive and head up-trunk to their communal den hole. Not a pilfered green tomato was in sight.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I've heard of the Red Arrows and would love to see them. We have two military teams or squadrons here in the U.S., the Thunderbirds (Air Force) and the Blue Angels (Navy.) They both perform regularly at this air show. Also the Canadian Snowbirds.

The weekend show this year featured, besides the Thunderbirds, the Brazilion Air Force Smoke Squadron, a USAF A-10 Thunderbolt (Warthog), USN F-18 Super Hornet, USAF B-2 (as other-worldly as they come), USAF B-52 Stratofortress (too big to fly, but does anyway), Apache attack helicopter, an A-10 Thunderbolt
and P-51 Mustang plus an F-18 Super Hornet and F4U Corsair, C-17 Globemaster III (imagine the QE-2 in the air doing what you'd swear was about 35 miles per hour), a C-5 Galaxy (another behemoth), and a lot of performers and such I've forgotten. Most passed over the cottage. (And a lot flew around, practiced, or whatever, throughout the week, including the Thunderbirds. In addition, there were more than 100 static (on the ground, not flying during the show) aircraft at the show, though of course these did fly in before the show, and out—many departing today. T'was thus a busy, noisy week.

But I kind of enjoy it every year. Go fugure…

KGMom said...

Well, you had a busy weekend, hard on the heels with your chickadee battle.
On the photos enlarging or not, I have not figured it out. I usually compress mine before I upload, and then they don't enlarge, because there's not much to enlarge. However, that is not always true.
There are some quirks to blogger that I have not figured out. And I really don't do HTML. I confess to looking up a cheat sheet to see what code means.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I don't understand this issue with the photos at all. Why one would enlarge and the others not makes no sense; they were all uploaded at the same size and should all click up to the same size.

I've also noticed that if I try to click-expand on blogger while I'm signed on, it doesn't work; but if I sign off, and simply visit the post via the "front door," I can click-enlarge…usually.

On the other hand, blogger is not making a lot of sense in a lot of ways recently—at least not for me. I've had various issues and lack the techno-sense to understand the problem and figure out a solution. As I've said before, I can't even spell HTML, let alone understand it.

Rowan said...

I'm right with the turkey vultures on staying home and sitting out storms in comfort. They probably think the F16s are particularly large noisy birds and hope they are only passing through. I love to see the really top air display teams, our RAF equivalent is the Red Arrows who are superb. I occasionally get free displays when at our house in Lancashire as they go to a local air show. You are right though, the birds can still show them a thing or two on the skill front.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Rowan…

My island-roosting buzzards (turkey vultures) are really consistent when it comes to heading home before storms.

Often the sky will be clear here at the cottage—or at least that small portion to the west (the direction from which most local storms approach) which I can see above the trees and hillside—and my buzzards will begin sailing in—one, two, three at a time. I know they don't all hunt the same area (at least I've read this is the case) but the whole flock returns to their roost within fifteen or twenty minutes of one another.

And if I log on and check the national weather service's radar, sure enough, there will be a storm on the way.

I've heard of your Red Arrows, as I told Solitary above, and would love to watch them fly one day.

Growing up not too far from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the Air Force Museum, and the home of the Wright Brothers, I've watched a lot of air shows and such over the years. Once, the space shuttle riding atop its transport plane passed right over the house, so low I could read some of the lettering. An amazing sight.

It's still neat to have the Thunderbirds flying over the cottage, though.

Lisa said...

I'm with you on the silence. I don't think I'd like it either. It may just be the thing each of us needs sometimes to appreciate the sound even more when it does come back.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Lisa…

The older I get, the more I realize how so much of life's appreciation comes from perspective…the view of the valley as seen from the mountain, the satisfying refreshment of a drink of water when you're thirsty, the comfort of silence after too much sound.

正人 said...

USAF ThunderBirds visited Japan and performed the exhibition flight in Hamamatsu. Thank you.
USAF ThunderBirds at Hamamatsu AB

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

正人…

I'm so happy you found my piece on the vultures and thunderbirds—and enjoyed reading it and seeing the photos. I've been awed by the Thunderbirds all my life, having seen them perform many times over the years. They never fail to thrill.

Thank you so much for your nice comment. You're always welcome on these pages.