The waterfowl refuge at the north end of the lake is officially closed now. I meant to get in there one last time, but the icy winds off the lake this past week were just too much, this late into winter. Soon, we’ll hear the tundra swans there. Already, we’ve heard the occasional Redwing blackbird and the sweet chirping from a tiny little bird on the top of spruce trees. On these snowy early March days, the new arrivees can so brighten things up on a raw and chilly day.
I’m reading a book entitled Birds Art Life: a year of observation by Kyo Maclear, and she has a chapter in which she talks about the migration of birds in the night. I recall reading about night migration in Henry Beston’s book, The Outermost House, and he has a gorgeous, lyrical description of being alone on the shores of Cape Cod on a dark night, listening to the migration of birds high overhead. I thought it was only his magic that allowed such a phenomena, but according to Audubon Magazine, “On any given night in the spring and fall, hundreds of thousands–and at times millions–of birds migrate across North America.” While it’s largely unseen, new acoustic monitoring devices are picking up night flight calls of chirps and tweets and buzzes, under the cover of darkness.
We drove home from town last night, under the cover of darkness, but with a big round full moon which cast shadows and light across the snow-covered fields. There were so many shades of blue out my window, and outlines of white fluffy clouds with stars peeking out between them. I thought of how the stars and the moon were aiding night-flying birds’ navigation. “Somewhere between the treetops and the cloud bottoms, one of the least-known, albeit massive in scale, natural phenomena: the nocturnal migration of birds.” It was such a lovely March night, imagining flocks of birds flying just beneath the bottom of clouds.
TO KNOW THE DARK
By Wendell Berry
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark.
Go without sight and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings
And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.