The Fallen Yellowlegs – 10,000 Birds
Yesterday morning was merely a type of extremely eventful birding classes, about which I could expound upon in components inside the coming weeks. After a number of (comparatively) run-of-the-mill birding missions inside the rainforest and alongside the coasts of Tobago over the previous couple of weeks, we stored getting our socks knocked off whereas birding the wetlands of southwest Tobago yesterday. From real rarities to undocumented polymorphism – the magic of birding was actually in full swing. Rising above all inside my psyche nevertheless, is the next sequence of occasions that unfolded earlier than breakfast.
On a tiny island there’s a restricted number of areas, and I’ve written about these ponds on a prior publish. Upon arrival, exercise appeared gradual. A lot of the birds have been within the furthest ponds, a pair of juvenile Black Skimmers have been working towards their method inside the confines of the oblong ponds. A concrete wall halving one of many ponds was a preferred relaxation spot for a number of birds. Considering making pictures, I drifted away from this wall.
Pay attention to this Better Yellowlegs on the wall from a screengrab of a video of the Black Skimmer.
My consideration was pulled to the wall once I seen this motley crew of shorebirds. L-R: White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Better Yellowlegs, Quick-billed Dowitcher, Better Yellowlegs
To my shock, quietly floating beside the wall was the limp physique of a Better Yellowlegs, a few of its feathers nonetheless dry. Its head drifted awkwardly away from its lifeless physique. In some way inside the quiet stillness of this cool tropical morning, a hen closed its eyes for the final time and unceremoniously slipped away below the brooding, overcast sky. With out a lot as a splash, it slipped into the water.
A second of silence for the departed.
I say unceremoniously – however I’m utilizing the human metric by which we determine what makes noise and what doesn’t. Clearly there was some measure of communication; some broadcast message went out to all related events. Life departed from one more little physique, and all have been notified.
Over the course of the next hour or so we noticed many various species *coincidentally* alight on the wall close to to the physique of the fallen yellowlegs. Solely species not pictured is Lesser Yellowlegs, when a pair flew in I used to be too busy evaluating the scale of the floating physique to the stay birds to correctly verify the ID of the lifeless hen. Apologies for excluding them from this carousel.
This Frequent Gallinule walked from the place it was perched up to now, made a pair unusual positions with its physique, then flew off.
This Black-bellied Whistling Duck was on its approach to go to its mate and younger brood additional afield in the identical pond however made a detour.
We left this pair of Least Sandpipers on the scene.
There are a lot of questions which observe an remark equivalent to this. I spoke a few posts in the past on the bond between a Whimbrel and a Willet (I can verify we noticed the identical pair, nonetheless collectively, later this identical morning) – and I seen the same kinship between a Pectoral Sandpiper and a White-rumped Sandpiper. Wherever one flew, so did the opposite. With related migration routes, would this pair journey collectively from one nook of the planet to the opposite?
Pectoral Sandpiper (L) and White-rumped Sandpiper (R)
Additional consideration should be given to the character of the visitations. Paying respects? Was it some kind of funeral? Did the Black-bellied Whistling Duck characterize his household, “exhibiting face” as we are saying right here within the Caribbean? Or was all of it dumb luck, the randomness of nature at play, pure coincidence?
Animals clearly see loss of life and expertise it as we do, so the query just isn’t one among if, however of how. Elephants, peccaries, and corvids have all been documented processing the loss of life of (as we put it) a liked one. So far as I’m conscious, these practices have all the time concerned a member of the household group, the flock – on the very least a member of the identical species. This isn’t an try and anthropomorphize, as that will point out that people are the one creatures able to possessing sure traits. There may be a lot we nonetheless have to study as a species occupying actual property on this planet (as if the ecological disaster didn’t already make that abundantly clear) however I consider the most important hurdle could also be coming to phrases with accepting that simply because one thing hasn’t been noticed doesn’t point out its non-existence.