They always come in the morning. I can hear their combined voices from inside my house and am compelled to go outside and look up. My next-door neighbor hears them, too, and we both gaze at the sky in wonder.
Raucously chattering to each other, 10,000 birds darken the sky. They alight in the branches of the tall trees that ring my house. I don’t actually know if there are 10,000 birds, but there are so many that the trees look like they have sprouted black leaves. The flock is so large that when they swoop down to the ground in unison, they cover the lawn like a black blanket. The European Starlings, iridescent, speckled black birds with orange beaks, migrate twice a year right over my house, my neighborhood.
One year, my daughter’s class was at recess when the flock flew over the elementary school. She said everyone stopped playing to watch the Starlings’ aerobatics. She said it was amazing.
When I was elementary school-age, I witnessed a swarm of locusts turn the sky a dark-greenish black. We knew they were coming so we covered our rosebushes and vegetable plants with protective fabric. We stayed inside and waited. We heard the roar of their buzzing and whirring before we saw them. Then they whooshed from the sky, descending and devouring every uncovered leaf off of every tree. It was amazing.
When the Starlings come, they take over. They act like the sky, trees and ground belong to them. The Robins, Cardinals, Chickadees, Doves and Finches who live here year-round scatter, protesting. Once the Starlings leave a tree, the other birds come back making a great show of taking back their branches.
My husband agrees that the flock is beautiful, but figures his newly washed car will be a target. He says my unwashed car is safe. He drives away quickly. There are droppings from the sky, but they are acorns and small branches that dislodge in the tumult. A large branch crashes to the ground, startling the flock, and they move on.
The Starlings remind me of a stanza from “Fireflies,” a song by Owl City.
“Cause they fill the open air
And leave teardrops everywhere.
You think me rude
But I would just stand and stare.”