HPPR hosts & contributors
Prairie Ramblings Episode
Thu February 21, 2013
Ribbons of Birds
One of my favorite parts of wrapping presents is creating pretty designs with all kinds of ribbon. The paper corners may not be so sharp as one might wish, but I love using scissors to stretch skinny little green or red Christmas trim into dangling sausage curls. Somehow sparkly spools of foil, scissors, and tape bring out the creative in me, and I find myself making loop de loops and fleur de lis on my loved one’s gifts. I’m not sure skill matches imagination, but I love playing with strands of fabric and paper.
Shiny, curly, and grosgrain concoctions delight me, but my very favorite décor of all are nature’s bird ribbons. Anyone who travels over the prairie on late summer or autumn days has seen scores of birds taking flight in shape-shifting threads. If you haven’t seen the way Mother Nature ties up a perfect day, take a hike or a drive and start looking for a filament of flying birds.
Sometimes you’ll see a tree or a telephone line filled with perching birds. Watch long enough and they launch themselves into the wild blue yonder. Keep your eye on them as they stretch into the distance, bobbing up and down in peaks and valleys as well as Mobius strips. I spend hours watching the infinite shapes these feathered forms create.
On November 14th, I saw a sight I’d never seen in all the years I’ ve enjoyed watching birds perform their version of Cirque de Soleil. Driving from Ellis to Hill City in late afternoon, I saw a airborne phalanx that was at least a mile if not two miles wide and tens of feet in depth. I don’t know if this was a migration or not, but wherever these birds ultimately landed, they emptied the larder in no time and dropped enough bird plops to tie up local car washes for days.
The size of this formation so astounded me I first thought it was a dark cloud. However, it moved-- up and down, squeezing in and out like an accordion, which made me reconsider my initial assumption. Driving closer to this dancing mirage, I realized it was a super-bird ribbon the size of which I’d never before seen. I couldn’t count the creatures flying in unison.
As I wrapped my mind around this, I noted another dark, moving throng in the distance and another behind that one. These were bigger masses than the first that had so astonished me. Perhaps three miles wide. About the time I drove across the South Solomon into Hill City, the birds and I crossed paths. I pulled over to see if I could identify numbers and species. The closest I got was a projection of tens of thousands of light-bellied birds covering Hill City west to east.
The third formation passed over me between Hill City and Highway 9. This time, I couldn’t stop. Even without a slow motion view, I knew there weren’t enough trees or power lines in Northwest Kansas to provide perches for the swooping, swirling creatures wrapping that day’s sunset into an astonishing ending. Who knows how far these guys traveled before they found resting places.
Making pretty gifts delights me, but seeing nature tie her gifts with moving ribbons thrills me even more. Wishing you ethereal filaments of flying birds to wrap up your days.