Whenever we have a big weather event, there are those of us who look forward to the aftermath, as long as our properties have not been smashed to bits. Interesting things get blown to the ground from the trees and in from the ocean onto the shores. Big seas can turn over rubble and debris on the beaches revealing things that were previously buried. I found this pristine arrow head on Popham Beach in February 2009 after a brutal storm. It was on the sand just as you see it here, looking like a little Christmas tree. That storm produced devastating coastal erosion. Vast chunks of beach were lost when the ocean carved it's way into the land clawing sand away from the roots of trees. Near where I found this artifact is an ancient Pitch Pine Maritime Forest. I imagine that centuries ago, an Abanaki Indian pulled back his bow, then let his arrow fly at a rabbit, missing the rabbit, and losing his bow. This arrow head had probably been buried ever since, until that storm revealed it.
Though there was a lot of junk scattered on the sand, my eye caught the shape of the arrow head right away. I have developed a good eye for picking out shapes that are out of sync from their surroundings - birds sitting in trees or in the sky, foxes in the bushes, or deer dancing on a distant beach. "How do you see this stuff?!" My husband and friends often remark. "She doesn't miss anything," my husband likes to brag. The truth is, I miss plenty. But, apparently, I also see much more than most of the people I know. I see layers and details in the same scene that my friends completely miss. This talent can be annoying. My visual world is akin to looking at a painting and seeing all the pointillist's dots rather than the impressionistic scene, Seurat surreal. Sometimes, I'm rewarded though, as in this pointed find.
"Little Auk" is another name for Dovekie
A week ago, we had an enormous storm with sixty mile an hour wind gusts. For two days afterward, the seas were eight feet high in front of our pier. On the horizon line, we could see waves twenty to thirty feet high, towering like buildings. This Dovekie was blown in to our cove from off shore. Dovekies are the smallest of the Auks, or Puffin type birds. It's about 7 1/2 inches long, smaller than a Mourning Dove. It's hard for me to fathom a being this small living out on the Atlantic Ocean riding on those immense waves, but they do. Dovekies are chubby, adorable little birds with stumpy, Sparrow-like bills. I especially liked its feet which reminded me of a duckling. There was something very innocent and endearing about this bird, though it was dead.
Dovekies breed and nest in Greenland. There are huge colonies there estimated at 30 million birds. In the winter, they come slightly south, sometimes along the New England coast. That's their idea of southern migration. They float in giant rafts out to sea feeding on small fish by diving. Storms that last for days, like the one we just had with sustained easterly winds, make feeding conditions unsuitable. Massive wrecks of starving birds can be driven landward. In the winter of 1932-33, the largest wreck recorded in North America saw Dovekies raining down on the streets of New York city. Large numbers washed up on the eastern seaboard from Florida to Nova Scotia. The visual of hundreds of the darling, diminutive Dovekies falling from the sky is a thing of nightmares! It has changed things for me forever. From now on, when we have torrential rains, I will declare "It's raining dogs and Dovekies out there!" Unlike "It's raining cats and dogs," raining Dovekies makes sense.
Thanks to wikipedia.com, allaboutbirds.com and whatbird.com for some of the information.
•Montevecchi, W. A., and I. J. Stenhouse. 2002. Dovekie (Alle alle). In The Birds of North America, No. 701 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.