Fallout (disambiguation)
April 11, 2016 8:43 AM   Subscribe

"I asked Ralph Eldridge if he would share some of the migrating-songbird photos he has taken as a lighthouse keeper. [We] were slack-jaw amazed by the sight of so many types of songbirds together. The birds were exhausted and in desperate need of rest after flying for untold hours and miles on their journey from wintering grounds as far south as the Caribbean and South America."
posted by jessamyn (33 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is so cool. Since the photographer said these events were relatively predictable and semi-frequent, I wonder if it would be possible to do some remote camera placements for the next fallout so we could get even better pictures.
posted by Think_Long at 8:49 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, wow.
posted by minsies at 8:52 AM on April 11, 2016


I want to be a lighthouse keeper all over again.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:53 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just great.
posted by Miko at 8:56 AM on April 11, 2016


that's a lot of birdies.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:56 AM on April 11, 2016


From what I know about hardcore birdwatchers, Ralph Eldridge can now expect people to start showing up on the island unannounced and vying for the best position to see the fallout.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 8:57 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Amazing.

You can see migrating birds on radar, too.
posted by rtha at 9:03 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Looks like there are puffin tours in the summer. And it appears the island is claimed by both Canada and the U.S.
posted by valkane at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2016


This is wonderful and astounding.

I understand that Block Island gets a lot of unusual birds visiting when blown off their normal migration routes. During one visit a few years back the island was abuzz with news of the arrival of an exhausted African bird which had never been seen there before; it was recovering at a shelter and the plan was to actually ship it back to Africa since a return flight seemed unlikely.
posted by kinnakeet at 9:12 AM on April 11, 2016


Would it be inappropriate or unwise of him to put out seed or fresh water? Asking because I don't know if that would hurt or help. Poor birds.

Regardless, I also vote for a. wildlife cams and b. banning birders, I have nothing against birding but these birds can't handle that stress.
posted by emjaybee at 9:13 AM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Would it be inappropriate or unwise of him to put out seed or fresh water?

I was wondering the same thing. Maybe litter the place with suet blocks and seed. And a pile of meal and wax worms. I think if I was there, I don't think I'd be able to help myself from doing that. I am a sucker that way.

I do really want to get the guy a dslr with a good telephoto lens. The kind they use at sporting events. That way he could get good and close without bothering the birds.

This is really cool. I'm not a birder as much as a bird fan. Seeing this made me emensely happy. Though I am sad for the birds that don't make it to land.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:26 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I suspect they want to interfere with the natural migration of the birds as little as possible, so no midnight snacks.
posted by maryr at 9:34 AM on April 11, 2016


But cold and tired hungry birdies!! (And that's why I'm not in charge of these things.)
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:40 AM on April 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Migrating birds get hit so hard by humans turning their feeding grounds into monoculture farmland or houses, I don't think it would be out of place to give them human help to balance the harm. The question would be if it would cause dependency and thus worse harm when for some reason there isn't a human putting out food.
posted by tavella at 9:53 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maybe litter the place with suet blocks and seed. And a pile of meal and wax worms.

FWIW, the majority of the birds pictured are warblers, which eat bugs, not suet/seed. So, if you're going to disobey the Prime Directive, go heavy on the wax worms.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:55 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


But cold and tired hungry birdies!! (And that's why I'm not in charge of these things.)

Many many years ago, like 25 or more, one of my coworkers came in and told us about a nature show on penguins she'd watched the night before. At one point, there was a penguin trapped—it had been unable to jump up a steep ice ledge with the rest of its flock. The filmmakers watched and kept filming, and then, apparently, one of them could be heard to say, "Damn it!" and ran into view, picked the penguin up and put it on the ledge to join its flock, and then went back.

I was once pretty well traumatized by a nature show on meerkats during with all the meerkats died—particularly the last two, who lay down, exhausted and dehydrated, and died slowly. I guess when you're doing a nature show, sometimes that's what you get. But I would totally be the penguin-scooping type, and I wouldn't have been able to document the deaths of a whole family of meerkats like that.

So many reasons I'm not a documentary filmmaker.
posted by not that girl at 9:59 AM on April 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


The question would be if it would cause dependency and thus worse harm when for some reason there isn't a human putting out food.

As an avid backyard bird-feeder, I have wondered about this. Looking into it, I have been reassured by knowledgeable people that birds rely on so many sources of food that even the regular visitors to our feeder aren't going to starve if we forget to re-fill it for a few days. It's hard to imagine it would cause trouble for birds just passing through if some tasty worms were provided for them during their layover.

And, yes, I want this person to get a better camera. I bought a high-end point-and-shoot to be able to take video and pictures of my kid doing gymnastics, and I have gotten some astonishingly good photos of the birds at our feeder with it as well.
posted by not that girl at 10:02 AM on April 11, 2016


Would it be so wrong to build some small styrofoam block structures on the island, guarded by little stuffed-toy green pigs?
posted by Kabanos at 10:15 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


The big deal with bird fallout is that it's a combination of bird migration and some sort of crappy weather event, so while there is a "definitely maybe" aspect to when it happens, it's not only not predictable it also happens when the weather is shitty. So no one would be coming to the lighthouse to see these birds (it would be super dangerous and there'd be no way to do it because lighthouse access is limited) which makes these photos so unusual. You can do it, sometimes, in places like Texas if you know what to look for and the stars line up just right. The lighthouse folks have a larger collection of bird photography here.
posted by jessamyn at 10:22 AM on April 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


So many reasons I'm not a documentary filmmaker.

Or a starfleet officer.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:26 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Twitter is appropriately a great place for shots like these- a while back there were these amazing pics and video of a mob of birds resting on a research ship. Birder Kevin Duffy has a marvellous twitter feed of photographs of migrants resting on the oil rig he works at.
posted by Erasmouse at 10:37 AM on April 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've experienced a number of fallouts over many years of birding on the upper coast of Texas. They are amazing experiences (24 warblers in a day!) but you never wish for them, they are too hard for the birds.
posted by Bee'sWing at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2016


I had the chance to work for a bird banding project in a similar "fallout" point in Cape Cod, coincidentally also at an abandoned lighthouse. The geographical location of Monomoy, a little slip of land right in the middle of the Atlantic route, makes it a logical stopover spot for migrating songbirds. In 4 years, we saw incredible diversity throughout the Fall migration season, including rare species that birders spend years chasing around, just falling right into our nets to give us fascinating insight. Bird nerds should check out our summary report, or just more sweet bird pics!
posted by Freyja at 10:57 AM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


From the wikipedia article valkane linked above, it appears that this is the last manned lighthouse on the Canadian Atlantic coast, and the only reason a lighthouse keeper is still there is to assert Canadian sovereignty. So border disputes can sometimes have unexpected benefits!
posted by Azara at 11:19 AM on April 11, 2016


I worked on a barge on Lake Erie and remember quite a few exhausted and (to me) unfamiliar birds in the derrick and on the hand rails.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:35 AM on April 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bird. Hotel. With little robes and blankets. An orange warbler in an overstuffed chair by the fireplace with a steaming cup of cocoa. Shall I draw your bath, my tiny friend?
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:50 AM on April 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


bonobothegreat, it's no surprise that they are unfamiliar. Despite many of them being brilliantly colored, many warblers are rarely seen outside of migration. They are tiny, they don't come to feeders and they often prefer thick brush or the tops of tall trees for hangouts. You can certainly hear them in the spring though. Plus, there are about 50 different kinds.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:50 PM on April 11, 2016


Specifically labeled "Confusing fall warblers" in many bird guides because they all sort of look the same.
posted by jessamyn at 1:14 PM on April 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Specifically labeled "Confusing fall warblers" in many bird guides because they all sort of look the same.

But they don't sound the same! And thats the fun part. Oddly timed comments since my wife and I were just this week going through warbler sound files trying to identify a tiny warbler we had seen and photographed (and took a short video to capture the sound) in Monsanto.
posted by vacapinta at 1:46 PM on April 11, 2016


*gasp* Thank you SO MUCH for posting this! I'm in the early stages of becoming a birdwatcher (or as I like to call myself, a bird nerd), and this is wonderful.
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:27 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


If you go out to an isolated lighthouse island after a long winter – like I’ve done a few times at Mount Desert Rock just down the coast from Machias Seal, to help set up its whale research station for the season – you find dead songbirds all over the place.

So no one would be coming to the lighthouse to see these birds...

In the U.S., no one would be at the lighthouse in the first place. Maine hasn’t had anybody stationed at one since 1990, when the Goat Island light was automated. The so-called ‘last lighthouse keeper’ in the country, in fact, was a Snowman. Her brother – a pretty great guy – came out on one of my lighthouse boat tours with his wife one time.

p.s. Hmm. Looks like my account of my first trip out to the Rock, written for the Christian Science Monitor in 1988, is still online.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:15 PM on April 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Not long ago we were trying to figure out about what actually happens when birds migrate, and we concluded that it involved a lot of nonstop flying. I kept looking at the pictures in this post, and the sight of all these tired little birds made me want to cheer for the little troopers. Hang in there!
posted by teponaztli at 1:33 AM on April 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Beautiful colors! Must be great to be a lighthouse keeper with all those birds around.
posted by VillaSeashell at 2:19 PM on April 13, 2016


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