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The birds

One more than one occasion, I have been reminded of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie. There are no phone booths in Rome anymore, though, so it seems I’m safe for a while yet.

First, there are peacocks on the grounds, five or six, including an albino. Then there’s a flock of some kind of parakeet, about eighteen or twenty.

Monday, as I was exploring the Basilica Santa Prassede with a couple friends, we were flocked by pigeons on the piazza Maria Maggiore nearby (though, these were aided by a grizzled gypsy throwing seeds). Then, yesterday, as i was sitting on the terrace, reading about reception, i was listening to what sounded like a small army of birds in a nearby umbrella pine. Then, as though on cue, they went silent. A moment later the began leaving the tree, perhaps a couple hundred, headed in the general direction of the Vittorio Emmanuele monument. I could see three other flocks of about the same size from different origins headed in the same direction. Then, i looked west.

It took a moment to realize what i was seeing, because they were just on the edge of sight in the fading light of the setting sun -Thousands, probably tens of thousands of these birds. The flock covered the entire western horizon in a 120 degree arc; it had to have been more than a mile long. I’ve never seen anything like it. And they were all moving in the same direction. Somewhere between Pizza Venezia and San Pietro, they began to coalesce and dance – for lack of a better term. Like a swarm, they moved in and out, coalescing and separating, sometimes translucent in the colors of the setting sun. Absolutely breathtaking.

And my camera’s batteries were dead.


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