Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Rare Birds Can Pose a Dilemma
October 22, 2016
By Steve Grinley
When a rare bird shows up on private property, the residents are often faced with a dilemma. If they publicize the sighting, throngs of birders and photographers may descend upon the location in the hope of seeing the bird.
Some of you may remember the Great Gray Owl that appeared in Rowley in the winter of 1995/96. The bird was a big story in the local newspapers and even in the Boston Globe. Birders and photographers from near and far descended upon the quiet neighborhood. Though most people stayed on public roads and used scopes or long lenses to view the bird, some did not. At the very least, the number of cars caused headaches for local residents trying to navigate their narrow roads and some even termed the gathering a “circus.”
A Golden-crowned Sparrow appeared at a residence in Hingham last winter and a young birder sought permission from the homeowner and the neighbors before publicizing the rarity. As a result of the young birder’s diligence, the bird was viewed by many birders over the course of a week without incident.
A homeowner in western Massachusetts was not so lucky after giving permission for visitors to view a Varied Thrush that was visiting her feeders. A photographer, in the zeal of trying to get a closer photo of the bird, trespassed onto a neighbor’s property who, in turn, called the police. That (sadly) ended all visitation rights to see that bird.
But for every bad experience, there seems to be one that goes very well. Such is the case for a Rufous Hummingbird that recently appeared at a feeder in Andover. The homeowners are active birders and chose to post the sighting on the local listserve along with an invitation for birders to view their special visitor.
Doug Peebles of Wayland was one of the birders who went to see the hummer and he posted his experience:
“It’s always amazing to me when I discover the kindness of strangers who are welcoming when they recognize a kindred spirit. I suppose that it shouldn’t, but it does. Kindness is becoming rarer, like the hummingbird I first saw today.
“I drove up to Andover, Siri led me to the address, but I didn’t quite get all the instructions and sat out front in the cul-de-sac looking for the feeders. I knew they must be out back, because the chickadees, titmice and nuthatches were flocking that way. But I didn’t want to invade privacy, so just as I was about to head home, an athletic gentleman emerged in full biking regalia.
“He greeted me with “I hope you’re here to see the Rufous, because it should be back any time. It comes every 45 minutes or so, and it is due about now”. I sheepishly responded that I was sorry to invade his privacy, but it would be a lifer for me. “No worries, I’m going for a ride, go out back and he’ll be here soon”, or wonderful, magnanimous words to that effect.
“And indeed, within a few minutes, a hummer briefly appeared- rufous on the rump and tail, plain throat with a few spots, green back. Seemed smaller to me than the usual horde at my feeders, but Sibley says no: same size. I wouldn’t be able to tell it from an Allens if I had it in hand, but I’ll take it as my first (and, alas, maybe last!) Rufous.
“So I sat there on the grass meditating for some time, birds flitting all about, hoping for a second look, thinking to myself that this is why I am alive- to be welcomed by fellow man, see something extraordinary and be at peace in a garden of Eden, when, suddenly, another birder peaked out from around the corner. It was just then that the Rufous instantly reappeared at the feeder, and sat contentedly between us displaying his gorgeous rufous rump and tail, keeping an eye on us both, as hummers always do, and wondered to himself, I presume, who these kindly strangers were, and how he’d ever find his way back again to where he felt that he belonged.”
The homeowners, Donna and Don Cooper, saw Doug’s post and responded:
“Thank you for the kind words Doug! Don and I have been delighted with the consideration that everyone has given to us and our home. It has been very exciting to see this bird and to watch the excitement of everyone else. When it first showed up we considered whether we would publish our address, but I am glad we did. The birding community has lived up to my expectations with its consideration and excitement.”
The homeowners are now considering a request from a local bird bander to band to little hummingbird. Capturing the bird for close examination and measurements will help confirm the birds identity and could reveal its movements if it is captured again elsewhere.
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