During my Wednesday walk at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I heard this flock of birds before I saw them. Their whistles and scolds carried over the water, and I wondered what was causing all the excitement.
At first, they seemed chaotic and confused, a disorganized muddle of hunger and alarm. After watching a while, their behavior made more sense. They would land for a frantic spell of foraging, gulping down seeds and anything else they found in the trees and on the ground. Then, at some mysterious signal, they would erupt into the air and circle to a new location.
When they reached a small gravel road, they streamed back and forth across it, oscillating between dense stands of pine on either side.
The most riveting part of this experience, to me, was the soundtrack. Whenever the birds landed, they communicated with a grating cacophony of calls. But they were almost silent in the air. As they shifted back and forth over the road, their wings whirred an eerie echo of the nearby surf.
I heard them in my sleep last night, and I dreamed of flying.