Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Watch the birdie

It starts with a dozen or so birds fluttering by as they circle above a cornfield. Then you see more of the birds off in the distance as they wheel about the sky in the gathering light of dusk. With the sky turning orange in the glow of the setting sun you see the masses approach. Hundreds of thousands of swallows migrating to Central America are making a rest stop in fields to the north east of Tracy. How many of these winged travelers are coming through town? Would you believe a million?

Tracked by a Canadian researcher using weather satellites the flock that is traveling south has made a cornfield off Kasson Road their rest stop. As dusk approaches the air is speckled with the tiny sparrows as they gather for the night. It is not as dramatic as blotting out the sun but it is an incredible sight to see the birds fill the sky.

As the light wanes they mass and spin like some giant cyclone. The air is filled with their chirping as they circle looking for their roost. Then with a silent signal they dive at breakneck speeds to vanish into the fields. It is fascinating to watch them mass overhead looking like an army of ants scurrying through the growing darkness. It almost seems unreal to see that many fly at one time.

The show has been going on for a week and has grown a following of bird watchers and enthusiasts. Armed with binoculars and cameras they stand in the twilight to see the army of birds arrive. This evening a powered parachute flier circled the birds as they gathered for the night and it seemed odd to watch the one lone plane against the masses flying about.

I don’t know if this was a once in a lifetime event, maybe Tracy will be on their future flight routes as they make their way back and forth across the country. It was beautiful sight to behold and an assignment definitely for the birds.

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