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The past 24 hours has seemed the right time to reread parts of Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez. Not that I’ve ever visited the Arctic. And ice is part of the bargain living at our latitude.
Ice is habitat, among many other things. We see some, but if it was 20 in the sixth boro this morning, it was at least 10 degrees colder a single latitude farther north, and that means crossings like this, less than 50 miles north of New York City.
We catch a glimmer of the Arctic here in winter, as birds from the North migrate in and travel around in formations like the one beyond Comet.
Buffleheads are the first migratory birds I notice each fall.
Gulls–most sorts are here all the time, although occasionally unusual gulls appear. Stowaways? Torm Margarethe and Doris Moran await clearance to enter.
a few weeks back in Chincoteague, a sole pony offered rides to a flock of birds. Tender-footed ones, perhaps? Really . .. not a single bird rested on any other pony. What was the social contract?
Watching these Brant geese swim out (I thought of them as surfers headed out beyond the breakers) through the wake of Comet, I recalled Lopez writing about snow geese: “what absorbs me in these birds, beyond their beautiful whiteness, their astounding numbers, the great vigor of their lives, is how adroitly each bird joins the larger flock or departs from it. And how each bird while it is part of the flock seems part of something larger than itself. Another animal. Never did I see a single goose move to accommodate one that was taking off, no matter how closely bunched they seemed to be. I never saw two birds so much as brush wingtips in the air, though surely they must. They roll up into a headwind together in a seamless movement that brings thousands of them gently to the ground like falling leaves in but a few seconds. Their movements are endlessly attractive to the eye because of a tension they create between the extended parabolic lines of their flight and their abrupt but adroit movements, all of it in three dimensions.”
That “part of something larger than itself” makes itself visible as a flock of starlings moves through a tree with berries, a fruit crop reaped by an insatiable harvesting machine.
Without this cold season, I’d never have time to reread the books I savored before. Nor would I find new ones.
The top foto comes from Paul Strubeck, crew on Cornell, who took the foto near Kingston. I’ve seen eagles but never gotten a good foto. Thanks, Paul. The next foto–kayaker passing eagle–comes from the flickr stream of ninjaracecar. Thanks for putting these on flickr, ninjaracecar. All other fotos here are mine, including the one below of my 28-year-old boss. The green one. For some really exotic bird fotos, see the ODock.