Thursday, 22 July 2010

Connections across the planet, off a different sort

It is not long after you’ve been birdwatching that your mind starts to expand to far off continents, high-elevation weather systems, and genomic machinations. What contrivance of weather, bad luck, and instinctual migratory clockwork colluded to drop so many new visitors to the salt ponds and mangroves of Union Island? Today, we were startled to the mangroves crowded with the a flock of juvenile Forktailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus savanna). Gone were most of the frisky Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) and breeding Spotted Sandpipers (Actitis macularius) which cluttered the Ashton saltponds just days ago. Even some of the more reclusive locals, like the Smooth-Billed Ani, the Green Heron, and the Mangrove Cuckoo, also made especially impressive turnouts at the suburban ecosystem.

Such delightful variation standout in contrast to the neat and clean distribution maps printed in birding books. The Lesser Yellowlegs, for example, spends late June and July breeding in the tundra of Canada and Alaska. However, one can easily go to, and produce a map of sightings over the entire Western Hemisphere during July. Rather than being confined to the Arctic, sightings of Yellowlegs speckle the Caribbean and North America in the thousands. Mostly, they are the (welcomed) losers: a lost lover, a predated nest, a freak arctic storm, there are so many ways that individuals fail to breed and instead gang up in early southbound flocks to entertain birders.

What started out as a great day turned far, far worse. I went to the office today to discover we'd been evicted! Such are the realities of working in a place where politics and bureaucracy are too intertwined. Stand out, and you will be quashed down.

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