These are double crested cormorants flying south along the Atlantic Ocean from their breeding grounds in the Great Lakes region to wherever they're planning to spend the winter.  In this series of photos, all taken over a matter of two minutes, they are reorganizing.  During the long flight south, the birds take turns being in the lead section of the V-formation in which they fly. The birds in front have to work the hardest, while the birds in the back get to coast.  So, periodically they regroup so that the fliers in the front get to move farther back while more rested birds take on the responsibility of the lead fliers.

It is fascinating to watch this happen. They know instinctively how to rearrange themselves way up in the air while flying.  I can't even understand how marching bands make themselves into shapes on a football field with their diagrams and videos and vocal instructions, much less how birds make themselves into a V no matter who is in what position, all while flapping wings and soaring hundreds of feet above the ocean.

What I do understand is the notion that the flying group is a community and that each depends on the other.  Cormorants are among the large water birds who mate for life, and they have a highly organized society. They somehow understand the fairness of the system of flying in which individual birds take the lead for the whole group only for a limited amount of time before trading places with other birds.  They share the responsibility for the success of the group, and they work cooperatively. What each does is for the good of the whole, and there are many benefits to being part of that kind of community.

This is the natural order of things with cormorants. This is the way God made cormorant society.

We humans seem to have a little more trouble with the whole "good of the whole" part. Working as an individual for the good of the whole, recognizing the value of the health of the whole for everyone doesn't seem to be innate for us. Which is sad, because I think that's the way God hopes for human society to be as well.


Ray Barnes said…
A terrific post Penny, and absolutely brilliant pictures.
I had no idea the re-forming thing was so very complicated, always sort of assuming that the 'leaders' simply dropped back to the end and everyone just moved up a place.
How very intricate, and beautifully captured.
A lesson for us all.
Thanks, Ray. It was a marvel to watch. In fact, I saw three such regroupings over the course of the afternoon. Saturday was clearly a big day for migrating south!