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Monday, December 04, 2006

Unusual pelagic bird

Yesterday I went on a pelagic birding trip to the Hudson Canyon, south of Long Island. I'll post a complete report later but, for now, I just want to tell you about an unexpected visitor on the trip.

"Pelagic" junco (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

It was around 12:30pm and we had been motoring south for about 5 hours. I was positioned in a strategic spot on the bow with a few other people. Suddenly, somebody behind us yelled, "There's a passerine flying up behind the boat!" I ran down the narrow starboard walkway towards the person who had spotted the bird. As I was approaching the stern I saw a small bird flying along side the rear of the boat, desperately trying to catch up with us. When he got close enough to the boat's stern he flew up and onto the railing. It was a tiny Dark-eyed Junco. Understanding the concept of small birds migrating across open water is very different from actually observing it. It was an unnerving shot of reality to see that 19 gram bird struggling to stay aloft 42 miles from land.

Looking for more crumbs (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

After a brief rest on the railing he hopped down onto the deck and began searching for something to eat. He must have been exhausted and hungry as he showed little concern for all the people on board. Occasionally he would fly a short distance over the water and return to the boat. While we were all looking for seabirds the "pelagic" junco spent most of the day hopping around between our feet. We didn't have any bird seed in the galley but people gladly shared crumbs of cracker, cookies or whatever we thought he'd enjoy. Everyone on the boat also watched him like he was a toddler constantly getting under foot. At times the deck was very crowded and, as the bird scrounged for food, he would weave a path between all our feet. At one point he flew up onto the bow and just stood there looking out over the water. He was only about two feet from Tom, Gail and myself. I suddenly had a bizarre image of the film "Titanic" performed by sparrows and yelled out, "I'm king of the world!"

Our special visitor hung around on the boat all day and, as far as I know, returned back to port for some R & R.

"I'm king of the world!"

(Photo credit - Rob J)


Pamela said...

What a great story to end my day.
Best post of yours I've read yet!!!!
The Oregon Junco is my first sign of winter when they show up at the base of my feeders. I love looking out in the morning and seeing the flash of their white tails as they chatter about in and out of the blue spruce.

Yojimbot said...

Kind of ironic that you went all the way out on the water just to see a bird you would find very "common" back home. Just goes to show you how context is everthing sometimes. Im glad the little guy made it, hopefully he got to where he needed to go.

Karmyn R said...

What a great story!! That poor little junco. I'm glad he found a place to rest on his journey.

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