Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Watching a Rare Bird Disappear
It was one of the coolest flights made by a bird I've ever seen, but it was definitely an "uh-oh" moment. The Calliope Hummingbird found at the Triangle Garden on Lighthouse Avenue in Cape May Point, NJ yesterday by Michael O'Brien had made three visits to the garden's flowers as dawn unfolded, returning to trees nearby to perch and rest. Then, abruptly, at 8:20 a.m. it shot upward, towering for a count of maybe 10 seconds, ascending that whole time. Richard Crossley and I said "uh-oh" at about the same time as it ascended. Then it shot eastward, eastward until it faded to nothing in my binoculars. It was a good day for this bird to leave, with fair skies and northeast winds, but a shame for the folks who came later than first light searching for this bird. I'll be very surprised if it turns up again, although if it kept going east, it obviously was going to be over the Atlantic and that spells trouble for a potentially misdirected bird.
Sadly, that doesn't mean it will stop. One theory about vagrants like this Calliope is that their compass is awry, in this case, the theory would go, by 90 degrees eastward. Thus instead of southward, the bird heads east. . .and east, and east, and, carrying the fouled-up compass to its conclusion, eventually perishes over the Atlantic, searching for winter grounds it can never find in that direction.
I'm going to hope differently, that instead of flying ever eastward this Calliope turns around, and either winters on the east coast somewhere or continues southward instead.
Posted by Don Freiday at 2:11 PM