Thursday, 26 September 2013

Did that stick just move?

Bird in the bushBriefly standing motionless, I happened to look down at the ground and noticed something odd. A small stick moved! Had there been even a breath of wind, I'd have found it unsurprising. But, given that sticks don't usually move by themselves, I was intrigued by this strange event!

I soon realised what it was. The 'stick' was actually a grasshopper. It was brown and, though not too difficult to spot in green grass, was well camouflaged among early autumn leaf litter. Grasshoppers don't only get around by jumping, as you may suppose, but also walk (or at least clamber) on the ground. Indeed, grasshoppers can also fly, something also not generally realised. This particular grasshopper, however, was just walking and giving a passable impression of a small moving stick.

It is yet another example of how many apparently weird or paranormal experiences are caused by perfectly normal things that the witness just does not happen to know about - the xenonormal, in other words. To someone who did know that grasshoppers could walk, and did not realise that some species are a very similar colour to twigs, it could easily look as though a stick had moved by itself, possibly paranormally.

So why don't more people report mysterious moving sticks? Well, I only noticed this particular incident because, in common with other birders, I have developed an unusually acute ability to notice slight movements in a scene. A great way to spot birds, when they are not immediately obvious, is to look for slight movements as they flit through vegetation or take short flights. After a while, you start to notice slight movements in any given scene, even when you don't want to. Most people, by contrast, tend to notice little about the scenery they move through, particularly when in a familiar area. And because most people are not paying much attention to their surroundings, when they DO notice something odd, they more likely to be unaware of its natural cause. This is exactly the kind of situation that can lead to a paranormal report.

This does pose a problem for paranormal researchers. It means we all have to be experts in a wide range of subjects, ranging from natural history and meteorology to physics and geology! This is clearly unrealistic. Instead we should make a 'best guess' at a likely cause and then consult a relevant expert. What may appear bizarrely unusual to the average member of the public (or even a paranormal researcher) may be simply explainable by an appropriate expert.

And the photo? There's a bird in there somewhere. Look for movement ...

No comments:

Post a Comment