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Reveling in the Supreme Mystery of Migration

March 8th, 2014 by Michael Dyet

Hmmm, is it necessary to unravel every mystery of our world or is too much knowledge a kind of prison without walls?

There are few things in our rapid-fire world, fewer every day in fact, that we can count on as immutable. No, I’m not talking about death and taxes although they do fit the bill. I’m talking about something much more elemental and remarkable.

It happens twice a year ever year without fail driven by a burning instinct. Migratory birds wake up one morning and decide that today is the day to set forth. For some it is a short trip of only a few miles. For others it is an epic journey measured in tens of thousands of miles.

Scientists have learned much about bird migration:

How far migrating birds fly in a single day: 15 to 600 miles or more depending on a variety of factors including the availability of suitable stopovers.

How long birds can fly non-stop: Up to 100 hours for birds whose migration route crosses an ocean.

What flying speeds they reach: Up to 50 miles per hour depending on the species, flight pattern and prevailing winds.

What altitudes they attain: Most fly at heights lower than 2,000 feet. But some soar as high as 29,000 feet to overcome obstacle such as wind patterns and mountain ranges.

When they fly: Hawks, swallows and waterfowl migrate during the day while many songbirds migrate at night to take advantage of cooler, calmer air.

But how migratory birds navigate and reach their breeding or wintering grounds – in some cases having never been there before – remains shrouded in mystery. Scientists have many theories ranging from navigation by the stars, the sun, wind patterns and landforms to sensing changes in the earth’s magnetic field.

Perhaps the truth is that we are not meant to know. What is life without mystery and wonder. If all the questions are answered, what is left for us to dream about? What would become of faith if all life is reduced to facts?

I choose to think of bird migration as a grand metaphor for the essential enigma of life as we know it. Every new day has the potential to change the course of our life. Every decision we make has a leap of faith element embedded it without which our existence would be mundane.

As the last of the species leave in the fall, I find comfort in the certainty that they will return when winter retreats. I do not feel compelled to understand how they accomplish the feat. Not knowing, and reveling in the mystery, makes it all the more joyful for me to witness the miracle anew each spring. I have faith in the mystery and always will.

~ Michael Robert Dyet is the author of “Until the Deep Water Stills – An Internet-enhanced Novel” – double winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2009. Visit Michael’s website at or the novel online companion at

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