At 5 I was watching Creature Double Feature, The Twilight Zone, Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. When AHP went off the air, I was allowed to watch The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. I was completely unfazed by the over-the-top images flickering on the tiny black and white television. I knew that it was all fake and no one really got hurt or went crazy. I knew none of it happened in the real world because nothing looked remotely like my home town or any other place I'd ever been.
By the time The Birds was first shown on network television in 1968, I was far less sanguine about horror shows. But this was a movie by Alfred Hitchcock and I'd been watching his schmaltz or reading the collections of short stories published in The AH Mystery Magazine for most of my young life. I remember staring, transfixed, as Tippi Hedren was terrorized by flock after flock of small birds—all in living color. I saw that movie once but the memories are as fresh today as they were back then.
Coming home from work last week with the windows down just enough to let in the early Spring air, I heard what sounded like the sharp, piercing cheeps of peepers. Even though I was traveling on a byway, I knew I wasn't close to any wetlands. As the volume increased, I realized the sound was not burbling up to me, rather raining down on me.
I looked up and damn near drove off the narrow road.
Everywhere I looked there were birds, settling briefly in tree tops then suddenly taking flight one after another after another and hundreds of flocking birds flew from the bushes on the north side of the road to the taller trees to the south.
Since they were flying with intensity and a purposefulness only they understood, I doubted they'd start dive-bombing me. I grabbed my camera and started shooting. The camera's long lens doesn't begin to give an accurate portrait of their insane numbers. Watching them dip and weave in synchronicity was fascinating but the cacophony of their cheeping calls surrounding me finally sent me running for the quiet of my car.
A photo I published last week was one of the few I took down the road a bit where it was quieter—only a handful of birds sat on tree branches. I had no idea what they were since it was dusk on a cloudy day but several folks recognized their distinctive silhouette and identified them as starlings. I've never liked them much. I'm pretty sure they're the birds that pecked people's eyes out in the movie.
I loaded these at a very high pixel count. Click any one of them to enlarge it to ginormous. It'll give you a glimpse of just how freaky it was out there.