I had just climbed out of bed when I heard it: the unmistakable calling of tundra swans. It was still dark, so I rushed to the window, opened it wide, and put my face up to the screen to listen. The bugling chorus of what may have been more than one hundred swans passed close, then moved off toward the horizon.

Just fifteen minutes later I was stepping out of the house when I heard the wild calling of a second flock. It sounded like they were directly overhead. Looking up, I could see stars shining between the cumulus clouds. Suddenly the swans appeared in this clear patch of sky in a beautiful wide-angled V – somewhere between one hundred and one hundred and fifty swans. They appeared snow white against the black sky, illuminated by the lights of a nearby resort. The birds vanished to the northeast, honking continually their mysterious-sounding call. While I was watching this, a shooting star streaked across the early dawn sky.

Photograph by Randy O’Hara. Used by permission.

The third flock showed up just as the pupils began to arrive at the school where I was teaching. By now it was broad daylight, and the children and I watched the thirty-two swans together – our first lesson of the day, and a grand one.