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What a splendid name: “The Great Pause.”

This isn’t a splendid time, of course. There’s the looming threat of serious illness and painful death from COVID-19 — a threat that will be delivered upon everywhere, sooner or later. Too, there are significant economic hardships that result from staying home to slow the disease’s spread to keep our families, friends and neighbors healthy and alive.

There is a tiny streak of silver in these dark clouds, however: Staying at home has an upside outside.

With humans notching down a bit by doing and moving less, Nature has been given a little breathing room.

With fewer vehicles on our local streets, at our house the birds now often make more noise than the remaining traffic. In fact, only the bird-chatter comes through as the background noise during outdoor phone calls made here.

Although there are a lot of fake reports circulating online (those elephants aren’t drunk and there aren’t any dolphins in Venetian canals), some wildlife really has been showing up in places they haven’t been for a long time.

Goats taking over streets and yards in a Welsh city and deer wandering through a city in Japan; orca exploring parts of Vancouver, BC, they haven’t been seen in before; bears lumbering along Yosemite meadows and roads now empty of people; sea turtles laying eggs on a now-vacated tropical beach; a coyote loping across a quiet San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge — all made possible by humans pausing.

The big decrease in driving has also made a big improvement in air quality around the world. NASA satellite observations indicate significant drops in both particles and toxins in the atmosphere during the Great Pause, especially in the most industrial parts of the Northern Hemisphere. In some places, in areas of Northern India and Southern California for examples, residents can now see true blue skies and mountains that they rarely saw a few months ago. (Ironically, breathing polluted air worsens COVID-19.)

The ground has even simmered down: The Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, for example, recently reported less vibration in the ground — “seismic noise” —another result of fewer vehicles rumbling along the last couple of months.

The Great Pause has forced all of us to make some changes in our daily behavior.

The Great Pause gives many of us more time to garden and birdwatch and photograph and walk and research, and to examine the tiniest flowers in the sidewalk cracks.

And the Pause also gives us time to reflect on what’s important, what we want to keep from this experience and what we want to change for the long term.

We’ll get through this challenging time better together. Together let’s also leverage what we’re learning and experiencing now to improve our relationships with Nature in the future.

Giles is owner/operator of Wavecrest Discoveries, long-running nature guiding service on the southern Oregon Coast. Like the majority of personal service businesses, most Wavecrest offerings are currently suspended in adherence to state distancing guidelines. You can nevertheless visit via email or online,, or Questions and comments about local natural history are always welcome.


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