Magazine article Natural History

Shorebird Odysseys

Magazine article Natural History

Shorebird Odysseys

Article excerpt

One natural phenomenon that has it all is the migration of animals-from turtles and cetaceans that traverse the oceans to the salmon and shad that return to their natal streams; from the herds of caribou that track the tundra to the birds of prey and shorebirds that crisscross the hemispheres. Migrations speak of time, place, sex, birth, death, wind and tide, the changing of seasons, the demands of survival, the absence of borders, and the balance of ecosystems. The flights of migrating birds challenge our imaginations. Walt Whitman described them as "flashing a hint of the whole spread of Nature with her eternal unsophisticated freshness, her never-visited recesses of sea, sky, shore and then disappearing into the distance."

While we might take long walks, run marathons, train for triathlons, only in our dreams can we come close to the athleticism of a bird's migratory journey; only in our myths or in our machines can we fly or travel such distances. …

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