From a safe distance, preferably behind screens, pants tucked sensibly into socks and doused in parfum-de-DEET, the elegance of the big picture is both undeniable and astonishing. This is the web of life at its webbiest, connecting the fates of the infinitesimal to the invisible—shifts in weather patterns, changes in climate—and everything in between.
A bird flies a little further north than usual one spring, staking out territory in what, for it, is literally new territory. A warmer, more humid world has brought earlier thaws and later freezes to this particular neck of the woods. Which is also good news for the bird’s passengers: the ticks on its body, mites on its wings, virus and bacteria in its blood. Occasionally even something as big as a snail manages to survive the journey, berthed in a bird’s gut, likely carrying a parasitic payload of its own.
For everything we can see changing in the landscape—tundra to forest, swamp to sea, lake to desert—there is so much more going on at the edges of detection.