poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘starling

a safe space in the bridge

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This past week I have been in Halifax for a conference.  A part of my morning commute was the slow moving traffic on the ‘old bridge’ across Halifax Harbour, the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge.   The second day, I was more familiar with the traffic and the correct lane to be in, so I had a chance to experience the architecture and some of the wild life of the bridge (by this I do not mean that the commuters are holding wild parties). 

The Angus L. Macdonald is an amazing structure, built the year I was born and opened in 1955.  It is a long-span suspension bridge, supported by cables between two vertical towers.   The bridge is 1.3 km long, with a supported length of 762.1 meters. 

The bridge is usable by pedestrians and cyclists.  Because of its reputation as a suicide bridge, it is equipped with various barriers to potential suicides, including high inward-facing bars on the pedway and nets suspended in the open area between the traffic deck and the pedway.   

In these areas, hordes of starlings (Stumus vulgaris) gather, creating a din and an occasional cloud of startled starlings.  Starlings are known for their synchronized group flights – the birds move as one in a shifting horde of birds.  To hear the birds, I had my car windows open, but I quickly rolled them up since the birds were flowing very near to my car!

Starlings are an invasive species, introduced by Eugene Schieffelin to Central Park in 1890 as part of a project of the American Acclimatization Society.  Their goal was to introduce all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings into North America.  All of the birds I saw in the bridge are descendants of the 60 to 100 birds released in 1890! 

A group of starlings is known as a ‘murmuration’.

For those of you familiar with the excellent series of made-for-TV Jesse Stone movies (starring Tom Selleck), The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge is the bridge featured in the movies (although the setting for the movie is a small town in Massachusetts).  



morning, Angus L. Macdonald Bridge


traffic huddles and a thousand Shakespearian

starlings squabble one another

yellow beaks and feathers packed

soft slate bodies rolled into the safety

of the suicide net and pedway bars

porous barriers:  a cyclist whips by

and starlings sift through wire

a mumuration between orange

cables and green girders

impossible way, red and blue

pulse of bridge security

weaves the path materialized

within three tangled

lanes of traffic


©  Jane Tims  2011


Written by jane tims

December 11, 2011 at 7:04 am

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