After a tip from Jim Wright, author of the NJ Meadowlands Nature Blog, my friend, Suzanne and I made a mad dash down Route 17 to see the Northern Wheatear that had been reported there since Monday. Since, the normal distribution of this species is Europe, Asia, Africa, Canada or Greenland, this juvenile bird was far from home.
Jim guided us to the bird that was busy snatching crickets from between the sharp rocks along Tasco Trail. Be sure the visit Jim’s blog for incredible photographs of the event that had New Jersey birders on the move to a place once referred to as “the armpit of the country” but is now becoming a premiere birding destination.
The young Wheatear perched and cocked its head at the staring binoculars and stood for awhile as if to contemplate the situation. I wondered how a bird that had been hatched maybe as far away as Greenland (but more likely Canada) ended up on the rocks in New Jersey. Seeing a bird this rare is a monumental event for a birder but it has a dark side for the bird, as the chances of it returning to its route and living out its brief life long enough to find another with which to breed are pretty remote. It’s similar to a migration “fall out,” especially in spring, when suddenly dozens of birds land and birders enjoy a kind of avian Christmas. But the birds literally do “fall out” of the sky from exhaustion and near starvation. Many do not survive their migration at all. It is here that I question the wisdom of the evolution of migration. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to adapt to where you are, like some have figured out? But I guess this world and its creatures are still evolving, still figuring it out what it means to be in a corporeal body for an unknown amount of time. I know I am….