This time of the year, I’m always reminded of one of our local treasures in Scioto County. The Scioto River is a very picturesque, slow-moving river and it’s also a prime migratory route for many birds.
Since I’ve had the nursery on Route 23 near the river, I’ve truly come to appreciate the waterfowl and other birds that I see following the river in their migration.
I see them in the air from the nursery and I see them in the nursery. When I haul gravel from the gravel pits along Route 23 and the river, it’s amazing to see the diverse waterfowl population on their ponds.
Many will winter there. It’s warmer along the river, and they’re protected there at the gravel pit from people and cold wind.
The more you see migration, the more it amazes you.
How do they fly that distance?
How do the fly in sync so well?
How do they know where they are going?
Ornithologists have concluded that several factors affect their navigation. Yes, they do use landmarks and follow the shore, mountains or Scioto River.
They also have a magnetic substance in their pineal gland (in their “bird brain,”) that is like a “built-in compass.” For the most part, this is great for their navigation, but something like a solar flare can really give them a bad reading and throw off their sense of direction.
I’m sure the birds need the river and its cropland bottoms as food along the way. They clean up any ornamental tree berries as they are passing through the nursery.
When you think about the diversity in the sizes of migratory birds, we see everything from hummingbirds to geese and eagles. The huge flocks of various blackbirds normally get your attention as they fly in sync in swarms darting left, right, up, down and altogether.
Synchronized Olympic events have nothing on bird flight. We all hear the noise of a migrating blackbird flight.
We’ve all heard the many versions of the song “Bye-Bye Blackbird.” John Dillinger, the most-wanted man in America at one time, had a girlfriend named Billie. She was “The Lady in Red” that turned him in.
As he lay dying on the Chicago sidewalk in front of the movie theater where he was shot, his last words whispered in the ear of a federal agent were, “Tell Billie – Bye-Bye Blackbird.”
This time of the year when we see and say bye-bye blackbird, we also say goodbye to barn swallows, hummingbirds and many more. As we see them gathering or in flight, we are always in awe as to their capacity to leave, travel thousands of miles and find their way back.
As we see or hear them, it sends a spiritual message. We are reminded that a dove means peace, a bluebird – love, a blue jay –the opportunist, the eagle – strength, the hawk – a vigilant hunter, and the robin – spring has returned. As much as we’re baffled by migration, let’s be thankful to see them along our Scioto River and keep this in mind:
“I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it.” H. E. Emerson (1878-1969)