They don’t have a cool collective noun like “a murmuration of starlings,” but they were enthralling nonetheless.
Yesterday, I stood on the beach while a wing of plovers gyred and swooped around me. I stood transfixed, my feet freezing in the cold water, watching them, hearing the whispers of a thousand wings surround me. They flew as one creature, sides flashing like a school of fish in clear water, black wings, white bellies, gyring and twisting as one, creating shapes in the air above the sandy waves.
They rose in a mass, split into two amorphous shapes, each one moving around the other, until they merged like droplets of quicksilver. They spindled into a long roll and swept across the sand before piling up again into a heap, a mound, a pillar fifty feet tall.
As the wing spun and eddied, individuals would fly off from the body, peeping as they shot outward, slate-winged rockets ejected from a massive, living firework.
And then they settled, falling like heavy leaves back down to the sand, the rustle of wings replaced by a piping chorus that drowned out the roar of the surf. The wing of plovers in the air, now a congregation on the shoreline, dipping each black beak into the sand, searching for food, skedaddling back and forth in time with the waves until the ocean sent another big roller to make them take wing once more.
I stood there for the better part of an hour, rapt, giddy, grateful.