Monday, September 14, 2015
A Tragedy in Lights
Ever since it's inception, the 9/11 Memorial "Tribute in Light" has been known to attract tons of migratory birds in to its beams. I tagged along with the Audubon Society and project Safe Flight to track and document this phenomenon. Arriving at around 9pm on Friday, it was clear that there were tons of insect and birds drawn to the memorial. As the night wore on, we stopped being able to count the massive number of birds. They occupied the middle and upper reaches of the columns and numbered in the thousands. Every once in a while a bird would spin out of the beams and either hit the adjacent building or flutter down to the roof of the parking lot. As a result the tribute was turned off multiple times throughout the night, but the birds just kept returning. From the video it is clear that many of the birds are in fact feeding on the insects they find in the lights but its also seems that they are in some sort of frenzy. This was further evidenced by the harrowing flight calls of thousands of birds spinning in the gyre. Some scientists from Cornell University were on hand to record the calls and their detectors found american redtstarts, veery and white throated sparrows. My own observations produced scarlet tanagers, baltimore orioles, black-throated green warblers, yellow-rumped warblers and many, many others. Its unclear how many birds died as a result but I can say it is easily a few dozen if not more. Here's some pix and video of the event.