So, we’re driving along a local stretch of highway and I see clouds gathering in the wide blue stretch of the sky. But as we get closer, the clouds move oddly; they ebb and flow like rivers, collect tightly into spotty black pools, move around in magnetically collected groups from one hayfield to another, and expand again into writhing, twisting masses that make accordion-like progress from the highway shoulder to the grassy median. Birds. Masses of starlings having a communal day-trip in search of dinner.
I know that they do this because of instinct and hunger and, perhaps, seasonal urges. I’ve read a little about the scientific studies indicating that a murmuration of birds flying and flocking this way has something to do with an only partially understood sensory operation or mechanism that allows the movement of one bird to affect up to six or seven concentric layers of proximal birds, and the resultant ripple effect to make the wonderfully flexible yet ultimately collective movement of such groups possible without the birds’ all exploding from the general formation into random isolation. All of this, indeed, is based on consistent and controlled observation by far more educated ornithological experts than I will ever be.
But it has a certain charm, for me, to simply keep imagining the birds peppering the sky as clouds, as mobile lakes, as little pieces of sky-high impossibility. Delight finds me, even on the highway under billowing masses of winged wonder. I’m quite happy to imagine that the whole purpose of such behavior on the starlings’ part is to amuse and please and amaze me, just me, specifically. Until a scientist can prove to my satisfaction that the truth is otherwise, I’ll stick to that. No need to spoil such a good thing with too much reality.