This is not unusual since Maine is full of curiosities generally, but this time, both are bird related. The first is the story of a Tufted Puffin turning up on Machias Seal Island last week. “Yes, yes,” say the uninitiated, “a puffin in Maine. This is <yawn> big news.” But those puffins we have up on the rocks off the coast are Atlantic Puffins. This Tufted variety is a Pacific bird, and the last time one was spotted anywhere on the Atlantic side of North America was in the 1830s. There was a sighting in Sweden in the late 1990s, and another in Britain in 2009. Given the long lifespans of these birds, there has been speculation that that was the same individual.
The bird seen in Maine this month has been hanging around with its Atlantic cousins. How it got here is a mystery, but we do know that to make the journey from the Pacific over to Maine would require that the bird remain near open water to feed. It could not have traveled across the continental land mass. That leaves the possibilities that it flew along the coast of South America, rounded Cape Horn and then came all the way up to Maine, or that it potentially crossed via a Northwest Passage through the Arctic. If this is the case, scientists speculate that we may see more Pacific interlopers as those paths remain ice free more of the year due to unremitting climate change. The cascade of consequences from our activities continues to surprise.
The second curiosity is a dead bird found by Doug Hitchcox on Ogunquit Beach earlier this month. Here’s the message he posted to the Maine birds list regarding the find:
After summarizing our spring rarities in my last email, I thought the best
birds were past us, I was wrong. (By the way, I did forget that Kristen
Lindquist had a White-eyed Vireo on Monhegan Island, Lincoln Co. on 17 May.)
While surveying for plovers along Ogunquit Beach on Tuesday (6/10), I found
a dead pterodroma petrel that I believe is a Herald (Trindade) Petrel.
I know I’ll never hear the end of it, but I do not have the specimen. After
finding this bird, I took a few photos and saved the lat/long of where the
bird was (43.255417, -70.59175) so I could finish my survey. Later in the
day, Robby Lambert and I returned to recover the bird but could not find it.
I can’t thank Robby enough for the help as we looked all over the beach with
flashlights, finally giving up a little before midnight. I, and others, have
been back in the days since, searching to no avail. The lesson here: if you
find a dead rare bird on the beach, just carry it around with you for the
rest of the day.
I look forward to hearing from some pros, or someone with more pterodroma
experience than I, but here are a few of my thoughts on the identification,
starting with a photo:”
What do you think, Seanetters? I know it’s not something we’re accustomed to seeing, but we do have a unique skill set for identifying dead birds, no?