This story doesn’t have a life lesson, or a clear narrative, or really any point at all, except that I saw a birds being amazing and I want to share it. Also I’m a little burned out on writing about Africa.

I was at Seatac Airport, planespotting at the south end of the runway. The planes were landing from the south that day, which is unusual, because the wind is almost always from the south and they land from the north (if anyone wants to know why, ask in the comments and I’ll explain, but otherwise I will refrain from pedantry).

It’s a treat when they’re landing from the south because the views are better. At the north end the runway is several stories above the ground. Since rubberneckers aren’t allowed on the actual runway the views are from ground level, several hundred feet below the planes as they make final approach.

At the south end, the runway is almost at grade level, so the planes pass quite close overhead right before they touch down. But, closer to the ground also means closer to the wildlife occupying the greenbelts around the airport.

This day there was a large flock of crow-like birds of some sort. There’s a park and a golf course just south of the airport and they were roosting in there, possibly resting mid-migration. There were a lot of them – if not a hundred, then close to that. As a Delta 737 passed overhead, they rose en masse and started to cross in front of it.

I watched in horror, thinking that there was going to be a birdstrike. I figured this close to landing, the plane could survive losing an engine (although I would not want to be the one managing that landing), but I did not want to see an avian snuff scene. As the plane came closer the birds flapped madly across its path. It was heartbreaking to see how hard they worked. I hoped they would find abundant food soon because they were going to need it.

Almost all of them made it across the flight path – none hurt as far as I could tell. There were two who were not quite across. As their vector approached that of the 737 the birds veered down, and then back whence they came. I’m not sure if they veered down intentionally or if it was downwash, but in any case, they escaped harm.

Then the amazing thing happened. With the jet safely past, two of those who had made it across came flapping back across the flight path. As I watched, they looped back to the two stragglers, cawing loudly, maybe scolding. They went beyond them, then looped back, like anxious border collies bringing a few straggling lambs back to the fold. The two stragglers turned to join up with them and they all crossed the flight path together to join the flock on the other side.

Posted by lesherjennifer

4 Comments

  1. Jennifer, a former college roommate of mine who is a marine biologist explained why geese fly in formation – it’s more energy efficient. Birds have evolved into communities that move, protect and live as efficient as possible. The advent of airplanes, windmills, etc will over time effect their innate behavior. I suspect you spotted some of that in play.

    Keep writing,
    Eric

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    1. Thank you Eric. Good stuff to know.

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  2. Jennifer
    great stuff your writing I am going to make a comparable trip near the end of December. From Nairobi to Malawi. your description of the road does not sound very optimistic but we will see.
    good to see that you did find some logging

    I am going to my daughter who is in Nkatha Bay Malawi
    If your still around there you might run in to her.

    Jan (John) a Dutch pensioner.

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    1. Jan, good luck with your trip, and thank you for reading my blog. The roads are not too bad, but it will help if your vehicle has high clearance. And, the people in Malawi are wonderful.

      Also, I recommend, have paper maps and GPS. You need both.

      Please keep reading if you want to know the rest of the story 🙂

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