Birds Migrating at Midnight

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Birds Migrating at Night is a little gem excerpted from Complete Prose Works of Walt Whitman (1892).
An illustration for the story Birds Migrating at Midnight by the author Walt Whitman
Walter Baxter, Starlings at Gretna Green, Dumfries and Galloway, 2008
An illustration for the story Birds Migrating at Midnight by the author Walt Whitman
Walter Baxter, Starlings at Gretna Green, Dumfries and Galloway, 2008
An illustration for the story Birds Migrating at Midnight by the author Walt Whitman

Did you ever chance to hear the midnight flight of birds passing through the air and darkness overhead, in countless armies, changing their early or late summer habitat? It is something not to be forgotten. A friend called me up just after 12 last night to mark the peculiar noise of unusually immense flocks migrating north (rather late this year.) In the silence, shadow and delicious odor of the hour, (the natural perfume belonging to the night alone,) I thought it rare music. You could hear the characteristic motion—once or twice "the rush of mighty wings," but often a velvety rustle, long drawn out—sometimes quite near—with continual calls and chirps, and some song-notes. It all lasted from 12 till after 3. Once in a while the species was plainly distinguishable; I could make out the bobolink, tanager, Wilson's thrush, white-crown'd sparrow, and occasionally from high in the air came the notes of the plover.


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