November Migrations

Seen recently: the migrations of several hundred Canada Geese above my apartment.

They had likely staged at nearby Washington Park. I saw the same thing within a few days of this date last year.

The migrations of large birds, like the geese seen here, can be hard to ignore. When I stepped outside because of the noise, the birds appeared like they had forgotten how to organize. They cross each other’s path in a roiling mass, like ants on an uncovered mound. They were loud, it was an unsettling sight, as if I was witnessing a disturbance in the natural order:

They begin to fly roughly to the south:

The size of the migrating flocks may have something to do with their proximity to the lake. Kenn Kaufman writes in A Season on the Wind about the spring migration:

All over eastern North America at this moment, or at least all along the advancing edge of daylight, migrating birds are dropping out of the sky and looking for cover. In most places they are so widely dispersed that they’ll go unnoticed. But here, up against the barrier of the lake, numbers build as more and more birds pause and then come down before the water’s edge. In the trees, in the thickets, in the marsh edges, the arriving birds pile up. In the immediate vicinity of the lakeshore, so many small birds will concentrate that they’ll be impossible to ignore.

Visible migrations like this are rare. It’s a reminder of the thin but collectively huge layer of birds that streams across Chicago both fall and spring.