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How would you explain this sentence?

We cut him free of his bindings then turned northwest toward the circle. Our boots impacted softly against the dust, which settled like lime on the legs of our pants. Birds and shadows were caught quickly by our eyes, then returned to a fluttering periphery of hollow noises: a motor in the distance, an old man breathing from a doorway, the tails of his wife’s robes softly dragging across a mud floor. We moved until over the crest of a low rise we saw lights splayed out in all directions.

How would you explain this sentence: Birds and shadows were caught quickly by our eyes, then returned to a fluttering periphery of hollow noises? Does the shadows refer to the shadows of the birds? Who returned to a fluttering periphery of hollow noises? How would you explain “fluttering” in “a fluttering periphery of hollow noises”?
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For learning: English
Base language: English
Category: Language

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    Best Answer - Chosen by the Asker
    You always have such interesting questions that I look forward to your posts! It's like taking the SAT all over again, ha ha. About your sentence: what the author is describing is the movement of the birds, which come into focus of the speaker's vision, and which then fly away (and recede into the periphery of the speaker's vision). Rephrased in plain English, the sentence is: "Birds and their shadows came into the center field of our vision, and then flew away (so their view receded into the periphery of our vision) as the hollow flapping noises of their wings retreated into the background."

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