I heard them first, then they rose up from the adjacent field, winging toward me. I held still and they came right overhead, a storm of dark feathered electricity. Ten thousand? Twenty? Frankly, who cares about numbers — they were there; I was there. For a minute or two, they settled in the grass around me and in the trees behind. The sounds made by each bird, the grackles’ characteristic creaking and whistling, merged into a rhythmic drumming, like hail beating on a roof. Then, they were gone, leaving me alone, bound to the ground, with static coursing through me.

4 thoughts on “(Grackles)*n

  1. Sonia Kay MacKenzie

    Are these the same as starlings? I had the pleasure and eventual weariness of seeing millions of starlings each morning and and evening in the early 1960’s in my little town of Dexter, Missouri. It was an “infestation” of starlings that roosted in the woods west of our town. I’ll never forget the sound. You couldn’t talk over it. The estimate was six million birds. They were said to have carried histoplasmosis, that afflicted some residents. After a few autumns, the town tried loud speakers, loud gunshots, all kinds of things to chase them away. We moved to Florida during that time so I don’t know what became of them. I do remember CBS or some network coming to do a spot on “our bird problem” though. Believe me six million is quite a site. The sky was black twice a day. My mother said it reminded her of D-Day when the skies over England were filled with planes. (I checked it. There were somewhere between 11,000 and 15,000 planes up during those first days.) Seems a strange comparision, but many things reminded my mother of life in England during WWII. As always, thanks for your fascinating photos and commentary. Kay

    1. David George Haskell Post author

      These are a different species. Grackles are natives; starlings are European immigrants (I have some kinship there…). Grackles also form huge winter flocks, sometimes mixed with red-winged blackbirds. They are quite common in the valley in winter and, especially, along the rivers of W Tennessee. I’ve seen them many times, but never stood among them as they swarmed. Quite amazing.

  2. Sonia Kay MacKenzie

    Thanks for the info. I’ve seen them too as I drive in Tennessee and thought they were starlings. Glad to know the difference. Bet being among them was something.
    Love your piano cat. Wherever you are, they’ll claim; whatever you’re doing, they’ll plop down in the middle of it. What kind of music does Neptune like?


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