Monday, December 26, 2011

A Bunch of Birds in Beebe

At first, Beebe seems like any typical small town in Arkansas. It is located only 40 miles or so from Little Rock, and is home to about 5,000 people. But every winter, the town is also host to thousands upon thousands of blackbirds. After a tip from Zack, I headed up to Beebe with John to see the birds. Apparently you can park along the road, just off of the freeway, and be in a field where massive flocks of birds will congregate in a sprawling mass of feathered frenzy.

So we made our way up to Beebe, and found the spot that Zack had suggested as the best place to go. It was a rather nondescript and dull stretch of land. In fact, it was a field that will be soon be turned into a future Wal-Mart. But we set up our cameras and patiently waited for the birds to show up.

I admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. There were barely any birds flying around at all. But as the sun set, more and more birds flew overhead. The number of birds slowly multiplied, and then suddenly the sky became filled with blackbirds.

It was really quite amazing. The birds flew about like waves crashing on a beach. They would form patterns, then turn and swirl around with surgical precision.

As dusk settled in, the birds turned the horizon black with movement.

Beebe, and this flock of birds, became internationally famous when around 5,000 birds mysteriously died almost a year ago, on New Year's Eve (in what is apparently being called the "Aflockalypse." The official reasoning for the massive die-off is that the roosting birds were startled by fireworks, which caused them to fly around in panic, crashing into nearby buildings.

The Beebe birds reminded me of this movie, and luckily the birds here were much kinder than anything Hitchcock could have dreamed of:

Dang, I hope Tippi Hedren never has to visit Beebe!

And one last shot from the night, taken just before dark. This was a slightly longer exposure, which showed the movement of the birds as a slight blur:

After that it got too dark for pictures. I was amazed to discover that, even with the thousands of birds flying overhead, I wasn't hit with any wayward droppings...

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