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Signs of Spring

There are certain things I look for to know that Spring is approaching (besides the weather getting warmer). The sand hill cranes start coming back. You can see them in groups of two to ten flying by or hear their distinctive call rolling across the fields. You can hear the red wing black birds as they return to their homes around our pond. You can catch glimpses of robins as they work their way across the lawn feeding. There is also the return of the starlings. You know when they are back as they travel in large flocks. In the fall when they are getting ready to migrate, I will see flocks numbering in the thousands regularly. There are times when the flocks get much bigger. I recall once when a flock was passing over our house in the fall. It took almost ten minutes before the whole flock passed by.

Starlings are one of the species of birds that have a swarm behavior called murmuration. When these large flocks fly, they seem to all move together. When they turn the whole swarm turns together as if they all were given a command to turn at the same time. I am always intrigued by this. Do they have one or a couple of birds that are recognized as the leaders and the rest just naturally follow? Do they have some innate sense that allows them to all work together? When these flocks land in the trees near our house or land in the yard or fields to feed they cover the trees or ground. It looks like a seething mass of large black worms crawling over the ground. They are also very loud, all of them chattering at once.

As I watch the starlings it reminds me a lot of society and the political landscape of today. There seems to be a willingness, almost an eagerness to follow the flock. Society seems to have become divided into large swarms that move and speak together. This can be very powerful when they are moving in a direction of positive change. I am fearful that a lot of people in these swarms are just following the swarm and are not thinking for themselves or following their own ideals. I am all for being part of the swarm when it is working in a positive direction. I also have no problem heading off on my own when I don’t believe they are moving in the direction of the greater good. As my mentor would say, “you can be completely negotiable but absolutely uncompromising”.

We need to make sure that we are following our ideals and working to create a better human as our species transforms. Give some thought as to whether being part of the swarm is actually what you really want to do or what should be done. Do not be afraid to turn when the swarm is heading straight. You never know if you will be the one that the rest of the starlings will choose to follow.

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