Wednesday, February 9

the dance

The afternoon sun leans its rays into the repose of the marshes, when suddenly one of these tremendous floods of life surges over them, sweeping down in the distance like a cloud detached from the sky, an invasion of Valkyrie with all the wild discipline and exultation of speed and none of the menace or terror. The little birds approach over the water in a dense column of perfect order, in a humming volume of a sea-like monotone, accompanied by a soft purr from thousands of throats ... Changing pattern, direction, color and formation with every turn, each individual yet keeps the same distance from his neighbor, the same momentum, and the same angle of the body, as though pulled hither and thither with lightning rapidity from the ends of an infinite number of visible and equidistant threads, all radiating from a common point. Thus they cut one design after another out of the fabric of space -- three thousand leaderless birds, executing intricate movements with the single cohesion of one body, supported upon one pair of wings ...

-- Edward Howe Forbush Game Birds, Wildfowl, and Shorebirds