On the night of April 25th, 2021, one hundred million migrating birds, flying northeast, crossed the Texas coast. One night, over 100 million birds; how is this comprehendible?
It’s not, not to mostly daylight living humans firmly stuck to the hard ground of Earth. One hundred million birds in one night and no one in Texas other than a few radar-watching night owls, knew about it. One hundred million birds in ten hours breaks down to 10 million birds per hour or 169,000 birds per minute, every minute, all night long. One night, one hundred million birds; unnoticed, unheard, invisible.
These numbers don’t represent an unusual stream of birds crossing a single point on a map. The numbers describe a great aeronautical wave, one ten hours long that began in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico and washed north to the Texas coast and deep into the bottomlands of the coastal. This same wave crossed the gulf coast of Louisiana as well. Tens of million more birds, tens of million more unseen, unheard, invisible.
Every night in April and May across America, a new wave of wings is generated and regenerated as birds push north across the country. Sometimes in some places, the wave has only a smattering of birds, sometimes in other places, it has gazillions. In late April these waves reach New England, the biggest ones, with the most birds, pass in mid-May — 220,000 birds per hour, 3,700 birds per minute-unseen, unheard, invisible.
As I lay my head upon my pillow weary from the day, 363,400 migrating birds were in the dark sky overhead. All in all, that night a wave 2,195,300 birds crossed Rutland County, Vermont flying northeast at 2,300’ altitude, going 33 mph. I had no sense these birds were there. I had no ability to see them, hear their call notes, feel their wing beats. I listened for them, tried to see their black silhouettes as they flashed across the full moon, but every one of the 363,400 birds evaded me. They were unseen, unheard, invisible.
Humans think they are masters of their small universe, all knowing, all aware, all capable. Yet we live in a nature multiverse with world unseen, unheard, invisible. Below our feet, no matter where we tread another universe exists of teeny multicellular plants and animals with complex relationships and eons long histories that we know almost nothing about. Another universe lives above us in the sky. Spider sail across oceans, dragonflies fly to distant lands, butterflies link continents, birds circle the globe, bacteria drift on jet streams, viruses ride the dust and detritus of our terrestrial life.
It is not extraordinary that these other worlds exist. It is only extraordinary that we are so completely unaware of them. How I wish I could sail on feathered arms amongst the winged waves that I know will be overhead tonight. How I wish I could hear the notes, feel the thrill, see the beating of countless wings. How I wish I could know the pulse and rhythms of migrations heart.