Vagrant

text and photos by Brian Willson


Last month I reported here about the black vulture I saw soaring in the blue above Beech Hill in Rockport, a species that’s still rare in Maine but becoming less so. It’s just the latest in a long line of birds whose breeding territories are creeping northward into our state—a trend that began at least a few decades ago with such now-common species as northern cardinal and tufted titmouse and has continue more recently with red-bellied woodpecker and black vulture.

I also mentioned the curiously far-wandering birds we sometimes get, either individually or in small clusters. The pink-footed geese that showed up in North Yarmouth last winter (they usually winter in Europe), or a couple California birds I’ve seen out at Monhegan.

“Vagrants,” we birders call these wanderers that, for some reason, end up where they’re not supposed to be.

Earlier this week, I got to add another crazy Maine first to my list: a male rufous hummingbird that showed up on a backyard feeder just a couple miles from me. The rufous hummer belongs way out west of the Rockies.

How it ended up on the coast of Maine is anyone’s guess. But it was a feisty fellow—it fixated on this one particular window feeder and wouldn’t let any of the native ruby-throats near it. It kept watch all day from the branches of a nearby tree. Hummingbirds are known as hugely belligerent for their wee size anyway, but this guy was especially ill-tempered.

But beautiful. And I was fortunate to get a couple photos, because I’ll probably never see this bird again—certainly not in Maine.