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How the drought is changing not only what we see, but what we hear




An unidentified songbird rests on charred branches near a desert marsh as recovery from a 2005 wildfire continues at Big Morongo Wildlife Preserve on April 11, 2007 in Morongo Valley, California.
An unidentified songbird rests on charred branches near a desert marsh as recovery from a 2005 wildfire continues at Big Morongo Wildlife Preserve on April 11, 2007 in Morongo Valley, California.
David McNew/Getty Images

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Rising temperatures and the fourth year of the worst drought in recorded history have meant that spring and summer have been coming earlier than usual to California.

The result of that, according to bird enthusiast Bernie Krause, sounds more like a winter day than one in spring in his neighborhood of Glen Ellen in Northern California. Krause has been recording songbirds throughout California for the past 20 years and in doing so has captured the dramatic effects of environmental degradation over that time. "This year—because of the drought—we experienced what was virtually a silent spring with no birdsong for the first time in living memory—even at what would have normally been the height of the season in mid-April," he told Fast Company's Co.Exist. A few monsoonal rains in Southern California have temporarily boosted the population of songbirds, but that's an outlier for the state. 

Ecologists aren’t sure why the birds are leaving. Theories suggest West Nile virus may be a culprit, boosted by a consolidation of mosquitoes as water sources become more scarce. It’s also possible that migratory patterns are changing with the altered seasons.

We check in with the Audubon society of California about the the drought’s impact on California’s soundscape ecology.

Guest:

Andrea Jones, Director of bird conservation for the California Audubon Society