Some events are simply too big for us to fathom.

Some events are simply too big for us to fathom. Bird migration, for instance, happens twice a year on a planetary scale that bruises the brain, so we’re forced to look for evidence in the traces around us: Skeins of geese and vanguards of vireos in the sky; a four-day mob of warblers passing through the neighborhood on their way from somewhere to somewhere else. A waxwing slain beneath a living-room window, its biannual journey stopped dead by the sky in a pane of glass. The Baltimore oriole that arrives in the yard next to mine every May 1 or 2 and starts advertising his availability for a mate. Up to 3.5 billion birds and more than 600 species migrate across North America each spring, mostly at night, but usually we can see them only looking up from the ground.

BirdCast lets us look down from above, and that changes everything. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Colorado State University and U. Mass Amherst, it’s a website that lets us see them from a vantage point hundreds of miles above Earth, capturing each night’s continental migration as collected by over 140 radar stations across the country — data gathered about birds on the wing. The site went live to the public in 2018, around the time my own birding was deepening from a lifelong side project into something more personally, even spiritually, necessary — a way of being in the world that I had trouble finding elsewhere. After 40 mostly satisfying years as a film critic, I began to feel all those imagined visions closing around my head. I yearned to shake them off, to return to reality; birding has come to seem one of the more graceful ways to do that. […]

To me, the nightly BirdCast map has come to mean a great deal, not least a corrective to our human-centric view of the planet. BirdCast reorients us in both space and time. It shifts our understanding of ecosystems from the narrow — the street, the neighborhood, the town — to a vast globe that birds traverse twice a year because they must. Looking at that ceaseless neon flow forces a viewer to acknowledge patterns that long predate our appearance on the stage and, unless we succeed in our drive to kill everything on the planet, could long outlast us. Within this epoch the thing that matters — a bird setting out on a journey a thousand miles long, not data but feather and bone — is still here. But BirdCast helps us see that one creature and ourselves as fractals of a larger picture in which we are infinitely smaller yet bound by conscience and consciousness to obligation.

—  Ty Burr, from “Trying to Find Your Place in the World? Try Birding From a Different Angle”. (The New York Times · April 18, 2023)


  • DK Photo: April 9, 2023, 6:30am Cove Island Park. More photos here.


  1. How cool is this??? I got hung up on the beauty of the ‘skeins of geese’. – such gorgeous writing. I could watch the birds for hours! Awesome post DK!


  2. Wow, thank you so much for sharing, DK.

    I finally took a day off. A weekday off just hits differently than a Saturday or a Sunday. I was hoping something would find me that would sit on my soul like a paperweight. Takeaway the restlessness. This is it right here. Thank you.


  3. Birds are amazing, and what a great site!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Birds are fascinating. I’m exposed to many new species in South Carolina and the app Merlin helps me identify them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Christie says:

    DK & mimijk , author is: Ty Burr (born August 17, 1957) is an American film critic, columnist, and author who currently writes a film and popular culture newsletter “Ty Burr’s Watchlist” on Substack. Burr previously served as film critic at The Boston Globe from 2002 until 2021.[1] He mentioned in paragraph 2 that he has been a film, critic…for over 40 years!
    And ‘vanguards of vireos’! is in this situation…the birds in the forefront…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Christie says:

    I will certainly be checking out the Birdcast website!!! thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Christie says:

    I will certainly be checking out the Birdcast website, thanks DK

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Christie says:

    Yesterday, when the light broke out between the rain showers…I was walking through my courtyard as the light was blocked over my head…two Turkey Vultures flying low, at about 10ft, raising, gliding, floating down and circling around my front yard…I enjoyed the moments of watching them frolick to & fro in total freedom…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Christie says:

    Ty Burr, spoke of “The Baltimore oriole that arrives in the yard next to mine every May 1 or 2 and starts advertising his availability for a mate” and I thought back over the decades…before the field, ponds & remnant of an orchard behind and adjacent to my property was build upon, forever changed…I so miss the Golden Eagle that came every Aug 5th or 6th to hunt the field…I’d be in the house and the room would grow somewhat dark I hurry to the window and be treated with the majesty of this large, beautiful bird with a huge wing span!!! He had the cover of the old growth & second growth surrounding the open field, with ponds where he could drink alongside the scattering of Indian Plum, old scraggly apple trees and other under-story trees and shrubs…you can imagine all the times we kick ourselves for not purchasing part of that field for $4.000 – a piece of land smaller than that size in this area was going for over $120,000 a lot, several years back.


  10. perspective changes everything


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