Thursday, November 10, 2005

'I and the Bird' and 'A Restless Wave of Feathered Life'

Storms and west winds have pushed a bunch of unusual birds into the northeast. From the overnight Connecticut Birds Report e-mail notice:

11/09 - Litchfield, White Memorial's Little Pd. -- 4 SANDHILL CRANES on the sand bar at 1:30.

Many crane species are endangered (and famously so in the case of whooping cranes), but sandhills are fairly common in their range. Peter Matthiessen describes going to see themon the Platte River, in his book The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes:

Here silver-brown bird legions forage in the stubble and green winter wheat behind the banks -- no fewer than ten thousand cranes in sight at once, the crane clamor resounding through the closed windows of the car. Absorbing the silence of their mighty sound, we watch them for a long time without speaking, as one might watch storm surf from the dunes, or a prairie fire. At sunset, the restless waves of feathered life overflow into the shallows and out along the bars, brown in one light, silver-gray a moment later. In hiding in a mesh-and-deadwood blind as we let the multitudes alight around us, drifting and falling from on high, in sky-darkening number and unearthly clamor, we lose ourselves, escape into the roar that is bearing us away. [pp 265-266]

What else besides sandhill cranes have been blown in? Sage thrasher, ash-throated flycatcher, two Townsend's solitaires and a Bohemian waxwing. And this, from a contributor to the Connecticut Birds Report:

Just wanted to let you know, if you haven't heard already, that a lot of weird (mostly western) stuff has very recently shown up in the northeast. It's a realy exciting time to get out there. Here's what I can recall off the top of my head.

Franklin's Gull (2 in MA, 1 in RI), Scissor-tailed Flycatcher (NJ, ME), Black-throated Gray Warbler (ME), MacGillivray's Warbler (MA), Purple Gallinule (MA), American White Pelican (MA). There has been a rash of Chimney Swift (late), Franklin's Gull, Royal Tern, Black Skimmer, and Sandwich Tern sightings to our north. Hurricane Wilma apparently brought up a fair number of these birds from the south and scattered them throughout our region. Western Europe is getting in on the act too. Very interesting. Also, the recent SW winds have brought Cave Swallows to the Great Lakes and as close as northern New Jersey. Some moderate W/NW winds may bring them to the CT coast as in the past.

Speaking of birds, the semi-monthly so-called Blog Carnival “I and the Bird” is up at the Thomasburg Walks blog. If you haven’t already read my scholarly not to mention hilarious and witty treatise on the proper pronunciation of “piping plover,” go there and scroll through until you find the link back to Sphere. Feel free to read some of the other entries too.


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