My daughters and I watched in fascination as the black cloud pulsed and swirled over our yard. Its movement was organic and unpredictable as it rose, fell, expanded, contracted, pulled to the left and then to the right. Finally, in response to a signal not accessible to human understanding, it dropped down onto our lawn.
The cloud moved as a single entity, but it was composed of hundreds of birds: European starlings.
It was the third such starling cloud we’d seen that day in our travels around town, and one of dozens we’d witness throughout the autumn of 2021. The phenomenon was gorgeous, mysterious, and left me with nothing but questions.
What was going on? How and why were so many individual birds moving as one? I didn’t recall seeing these starling swarms in past autumns: Was this something new, or something I’d failed to notice until now?