Flight Plan

with Natalie Campbell and Heidi Neilson

May 18, 2013

Natalie, Heidi, and I drove out to the Frank M. Charles Memorial Park at dawn.

We planned to map our course that day with flight plans for JFK,

some maps of Atlantic Coast bird migration,

and our own form of personal path integration.

I knew I could count on Heidi and Natalie to come up with a nice use of data,

because they are the purveyors of the SP Weather Station,

an interdisciplinary weather data collection project.

It operates like a Personal Weather Station, but in their case, the ‘personal’ is more social or relational.

As we approached the JFK landing strips, we were not the only ones out enjoying the morning.

There were men out fishing, alone and in groups, all spaced evenly apart.

As we floated quietly between the fishermen, we started to feel like weird social scientists,

out to study the human male in his natural environment,

but we had more to study out there than groups of men.

All morning, we had been hearing guns or cannon fire coming from JFK.

“They are trying to scare off the birds,” said Heidi.

She was right. This bird/plane flight thing was no joke.

I was reading about it later, and found this article that describes the problem.

and this is pretty fun and sinister to read as well.

Natalie and Heidi brought along some other maps as well.

Heidi was plotting our course on her mobile jogging application,

and Natalie was checking out what the ‘Dérive app’ suggested as our next move,

but in the spirit of a true Dérive, we decide to follow our ears.

For the past hour, we had been hearing bird cries coming from an island in the distance,

and we decided to investigate.

The island was an incredible formation;

thick black mud,

covered with a layer of tiny shells.

It was not like the sandy and debris-strewn beaches that I love over by Barren Island,

but there were a few exceptional specimens.

The birds were getting nervous,

so we hopped back in the boat,

and admired them from afar.

My camera doesn’t capture this sort of thing well, but the sky and land were litterally filled with different kinds of birds, and we could hear them calling all around us.

There were geese, gulls, pipers, plovers, egrets, herons, turns, cormorants, and ducks (and those were just the ones we knew).

I tried to get a picture through Heidi’s binoculars,

of a pretty little Oystercatcher running down the beach.

For a mile, the water was only 6 inces deep,

and we could peer down to watch life passing by underneath the boat.

“It’s like a movie.” said Natalie.

We wondered if that was the bird’s dinner passing by down there,

and we wondered about the complex relationship,

of the flight paths of the birds and planes.

Just as we were getting the boat back to the car, there was one last bird,

a bright green parrot, making a cameo appearance, like a washed up movie star.

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