The Great American Eclipse from my backyard: Observing Darwin for Citizen Science

I was very happy for friends and family living in the arc of the total eclipse, but eclipse watching in Southern California offered limited excitement. No matter! Why not fully experience whatever it would be?

About an hour before peak viewing time I took notice of the slant of light.

Fifteen minutes before I was expecting to notice any change, Zena became hyper-alert. You’ll see she is also looking at the shadows.

She could have been looking at Jay hand watering a few plants in the front yard, but she’s a very  smart and intuitive dog. I think she was sensing impending drama.

I thought it was important that I check on Darwin. He was roaming about, not yet displaying any sign of concern. The sun was still very bright on the south side of the yard.

Camera in hand…what would I see at the furthest point west? The sun was visible above the house, and I witnessed two hummingbirds fighting at the feeder. Surely the birds were sensing something?

Aha! Proof!

Witness evidence that the birds were affected by atmospheric changes. Ten full minutes before peak time ALL the birds disappeared from our feeders.

It’s possible that while my attention was drawn to the dueling hummingbirds I disturbed them from their morning feeding frenzy. But then, note the squirrel didn’t scatter when I came close.

Some would argue that nothing disturbs squirrels, however…

Back to check those shadows at just the right moment! This is our Los Angeles peak time!

Not quite the drama I’d hoped to capture.

The slant of light was slightly different from what we typically experience at this time of day. Either that or I was imagining it.

It did seem to freak out Darwin, though. As the eclipse followed its entire cycle he stood on his hind legs and tried to reach the gate latch. It was all obviously just too much for him.

Darwin is a very sensitive creature.

To calm down he made his way back to his water dish. The eclipse-created pattern on his shell was most intriguing. I’ve never seen him dappled with this particular pattern.

It’s true that I’m rarely on that side of the yard at 10:29 in the morning, but, it COULD be related to this morning’s event.

What an exhausting morning for all of us! Capturing nature’s phenomena is indeed hard work. To calm him a bit, I added a few succulents to his breakfast of timothy hay, and let him return to his normal activities.

Some of you undoubtedly had much more complete experiences of the full eclipse. Just think of what I would have recorded if I lived in the path of totality!

However, I think I experienced just about everything I could possibly enjoy without leaving my own back yard.

My camera recorded my careful observations, and I think this exercise now qualifies me as a citizen scientist.*


*No actual science was conducted in this informal observation, but it sure was fun!