Wings long and puissant
22 August 2006
Winter is coming, and it’ll be a bad one. My extremely unreliable weather forecasting is drawn from the first sighting of a kolea (pacific golden plover, pluvialis fulva) in his casual winter plumage last Thursday. Since these birds nest for the summer on the North Slope of recent ANWR fame, also known as the Arctic Coastal Plain, they are probably one of the first to get cold. They are also one of the smartest in the avian world in terms of choosing their winter home, since they then show up here in Hawai`i for the winter.
To fully appreciate that, go get a globe. Google Maps is okay, but doesn’t really convey the scale of the thing. These birds fly thousands of miles over the Pacific Ocean without landing for about two and a half days. Even if you think that is easy, take a look around at what happens if you miss Hawai`i by a little bit. Furthermore, they seem to return to the same spot on the island where they were last year. I haven’t checked any leg bands, but I saw the first one on the front lawn of Gemini headquarters in Hilo, and I saw one there last year, too. The same yards on our road at home always seem to have plovers in them as well. The kolea will hang out here until spring, when they will briefly strut around in their fantastic breeding plumage before taking off for the trip back North. Since the harbinger at Gemini on Thursday, I’ve seen at least three more around Hilo. I look forward to their stilted presence on our road again, too.
Good luck, birds.
P.S. Whether or not drilling in ANWR for oil can be done without disturbing any of the hundreds of thousands of caribou, millions of birds, and just plain lots of whales, seals, bears, and people who live there, it is a BAD IDEA. Cracking open a previously designated wilderness just because we can’t reduce our catastrophic oil consumption is a sign of near-terminal stupidity. IMHO.