Starlings in flight are beautiful. They swoop, dive and dance, as choreographed as a school of fish, but with more elegance. Every night in the fall, they give a free show over the River Tiber in Rome. And then, mysteriously, vanish, only to be seen, again, the following October.
(I once even saw them making a fish symbol over St. Peter's. I can't remember if I saw it as an omen or not, but I must have been mesmerized, because although I thought to take a snap, I was too entranced to realize I should probably get the basilica into the frame with the fish to prove that it really had happened. But look, here's my almost-proof!).
Still, as beautiful as I knew starlings were -- and as annoying for Rome residents, particularly those in Trastevere, who have to start their commutes with ten minutes of scraping the elegant birds' less-than-elegant refuse from the hoods of their cars -- I never realized they were so darn loud.
Until, walking in Campo Marzio the other night, I heard what sounded like a loud rushing noise. Loud enough to be heard over the city traffic and strolling Italians. It sounded like a waterfall...in the city center. As I got to the end of the street, the noise was even louder. I looked up. Before me stood one, big, lonesome tree -- filled with what must have been hundreds of small, not-so-lonesome starlings. They were almost impossible to see, but not to hear. I thought about making like a character in The Birds and running for it, but I took this video instead.
Turn the volume up even louder to get a sense of what it was really like, and see if you can even make out the tiny little things rustling around in the branches.