Amblin' Alameda: Spring!

Amblin' Alameda: Spring!

Morton Chalfy

Spring, which unofficially arrived sometime in January, made its official debut on March 21 and drew scores of Alamedans to the shore. At the western end of Shore Line Drive, the park was filled with walkers, bikers, sunbathers, picnickers, sailboarders and more bare flesh than we usually see. Shore Line itself was pretty busy with runners and bikers and beachgoers, but it wasn't until the paved walkway turned north at Broadway that the true measure of ppring could be felt and seen.

One continues east onto the sandy pathway into the bird sanctuary, greets dogs and dog walkers on the way to the first observation deck and then is rewarded by the sight of thousands of shorebirds busily fattening up for the next leg of their migratory journey. Shorebirds from the tiniest, chirpiest zoomers to the larger avocets to the ducks and egrets line the estuary poking their bills into the mud flats in pursuit of juicy morsels. The sounds they make are low key and filled with satisfaction.

And then, all at once, an aerial ballet begins in the middle of the waterway and scarcely a foot or two above the surface. A flock of tiny shorebirds flying in formation, swooping, gliding, turning as though one large organism. Breathtaking. And then another flock rises to join them, the two groups of birds looking like two schools of fish as they swirl through the sky.

We know they're not connected to each other by telepathy but by quick reflexes, quicker responses to the sight of the one in front or to the side beginning to wheel around - which induces the next to follow and the next and all so rapidly that it seems to be in unison. There must be split-second delays in their movements, but they are not detectable by human eyes. What is detectable is the beauty and grace these little fliers demonstrate.

And for what reason? What causes them to rise as one and begin their free form dance in the air? What inspires the release of energy and random motions that seem to signify joy and abandon? Can it truly be that the arrival of spring, which after all sends them on migrations of hundreds or thousands of miles, seems to delight them at the renewal of the biosphere and its annual urge to mate and nest?

Watching the flocks wheel over the water, rising and falling in waves of birds, certainly gives me that impression. The procreative urge arrives with the warmth of spring and sends these little aviators into paroxysms of joy that they express in flight.

We dance, birds fly, hurrah for spring.