Amid the abuses that humans perpetrate on birds, can we be worthy of their beauty and music, their force and grace.
This article and the link to “see the lighthouse keeper’s photos” reminds me of a fallout I witnessed while volunteering as birdbander at the Long Point Bird Observatory in Ontario on a field station located at the point of a nearly 20 miles peninsula jutting out from the north edge of Lake Erie. This was some time in the late 70’s or early 80’s. Spring migration was in full force. While having a late dinner after compiling the days counts we heard a dealing noise outside. There was a heavy fog and as the wide sweep of the nearby lighthouse beacon swept overhead what looked at first to be countless raindrops turned out to be birds! The birds were everywhere! Many clung to the sides of the lighthouse and constantly fell exhausted into the moot below the lighthouse.Another volunteer and I put on hip waders and waded out into the water spending the night scooping up bird after bird and bringing them to shore. The water was cold and our waders kept bumping up against our bjects that seemed to be moving. Sometimes as we were reached down the bird would suddenly disappear, sucked under the water. In the morning we found numerous headless birds. There were large snapping turtles in the moot. I’m sure they seldom found such easy prey.
This is where science and compassion battle. I confess my overriding excitement was the opportunity to capture these fallen woodland to marsh birds, band them and then release them. Did we exhaust them beyond the point of recovery by handling them further? Perhaps. None died that we captured and brought to shore but I’ll never know what percentage survived thereafter.
Really beautiful piece, Bryan. Lyrical and insightful in strong and steady beats. And I'm so grateful for the link to the Machias Seal Island blog and photos. I can't get those images out of my head now. One more reason to be a lighthouse keeper.
Happy to see you give Monhegan a starring role too. A favorite place of ours here in our midcoast neighborhood, and where Heather and I ran off to be married (during the fall migration). In fact, we met one of your photographers (from this piece) then.
Thank you, my friend, for putting words, once again, to some of the hard stuff of life, at the same time pulling back the curtain to show such impossible beauty.
Joy is exactly the emotion I felt witnessing a fallout of mountain bluebirds during a spring storm two weeks ago. I live on the east slope of the Rockies and never see bluebirds around my place.
Seeing a flock of 50 to 60 mountain bluebirds where and when you never see them was truly joyful. Glad I decided to walk to the mailbox, or I would have missed them.
Your beautiful description of fall out makes my heart ache - half sweet, half grief...
Wow. Heroic and sublime.
“Not necessarily of rare birds gradually vanishing forever, but rather an extinction of abundance.” All so well — and strongly — put. And I love how you write about *their* diminished landscapes as well. (I hadn’t read Pyle’s essay before, or maybe did but don’t remember, but this reminded me vividly of Jack Turner’s book “The Abstract Wild.”) Thank you for articulating all of this.