Night flight

spring birds2 - 103.07.20

The night migration of birds is now underway.  In the spring and fall, back before radar, ornithologists conducted “moon watching” by pointing telescopes at the moon and watching for the silhouettes of birds to pass by.   While there is still no complete understanding of all the ways birds find their way in the dark–for 3,000 miles–research indicates that they most likely use the stars to guide them.  Cliff Mass, the meteorologist I follow in Seattle, reported that the mass migration began there this past Wednesday, showing up on the National Weather Service radar between sunset and sunrise.  Conditions were perfect for the journey–a warm front had moved in, clear skies with no rain, and the winds were strongly from the south, creating a good tailwind.  He claimed the birds were meteorologically very smart.

We are nearing the full moon and it has been appearing out my bedroom window sometime around 2 a.m.   From my pillow, I’ve been imagining what it must have looked like to have your eye on a telescope and see the silhouettes go by.    I’ve read several accounts of being at the seashore and hearing the flocks go by overhead in the middle of the night.   On my morning walks, there are so many arriving robins and red-winged blackbirds, and tiny little cheerful birdies at the tip-top of spruce trees, and it’s just a wonder to think about their celestial journey.  The Canada geese pair who nest every year on Johnson’s Pond are back.  They’re sitting on the ice, next to a very small opening of water.  Every year they hatch their eggs dangerously close to the highway, and we can never know if their goslings survived, but, Mom and Dad are always back each spring to start again.

It is such a fragile, scary place out in the world right now with the coronavirus epidemic topping the list.   I came down with a bad cold after arriving home from Finland, and have been under self-quarantine for a week now.  Don is down in blistering hot Phoenix with the grandsons, watching Spring Training baseball, so it’s been very quiet at my house.  Except for the mountain lion who sauntered up the yard the other day, the peacefulness here belies what it feels like to be out in the crowded world.  I’ve bundled up and sat down by the water the last couple of late afternoons, listening for the loons which should arrive very soon.  Small flocks of geese are flying low, and I can hear their webbed feet come in for a landing–it’s that quiet.  It’s actually been quite lovely to be under my version of a quarantine.

I spotted a little tiny purple violet between the stones on the terrace the other day, at 35 degrees.  Spring is coming, and life moves on, and, always there is such hope in that.

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  –Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

1 thought on “Night flight

  1. jcoakleyuccsedu

    I like your robin. It looks ready for spring. The birds are arriving in Fort Collins as well. The rhythm of the natural world is reassuring. And the unpredictability and power of the natural world is a reminder that we are not in control of everything. Add a synthetic virus to the mix and it turns everything upside down. Where does a mountain lion fit in this scenario? Be careful, be well.


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