I’m in New England for a winter birding and school-visiting expedition. Although I went to college in Connecticut, visiting this part of the country always feels a little alien to me. I panic when I get to the toll plazas on the Mass Turnpike – which lane for cash? Do I need exact change? What is the ‘tickets’ lane? What the heck is an EasyPass? Everyone always seems in such a damn hurry. Some lady in a silver sedan blitzed passed me in a no-passing zone (right next to a school) and shot me a dirty look when I was going 22 in a 25 mph zone – I was lost, what can I say? I can barely understand those Baahstun accents, I don’t know why Highway 28-South actually goes north, and I certainly don’t get why main thoroughfares have the cross-street stop signs at a 45-degree angle (wait – is that stop sign for ME?!). And it’s COLD here (26 F when I arrived at my first birding stop this am). Sometimes traveling in South America or Europe feels more familiar and more comfortable than venturing up to the Northeast.
Nevertheless, I’m here, far from home (at least compared to the relatively cozy confines of North America). I spent a quality hour this afternoon in a field of corn stubble with another critter far from home, this Northern Lapwing:
Lapwings are a kind of plover, distantly related to our North American plovers (like the Killdeer). Northern Lapwings are common throughout much of Europe, but they are hardly ever seen on this side of the Atlantic. Turns out this poor fella was trying to migrate south to his wintering grounds in Africa when he was swept off course by a powerful storm system that later became part of Superstorm Sandy. A small group of Lapwings made landfall in New England along with the hurricane, and they have been trying to scrape by on a foreign continent ever since.
Lapwings are so rare in the United States that they even warranted an article in the Boston Globe. My favorite quotation from the article is from Joan Walsh of MA Audubon: “It’s the equivalent of walking down Mass. Ave. and seeing 15 double-decker buses filled with Brits wearing Burberry jackets.” Yep, pretty unusual. Most of the Lapwings have since disappeared, but this one south of Bridgewater, MA is hanging on amidst the corn stalks.
Often we are far from home, physically or metaphorically, arriving by choice or blown there by the winds of fate. We could do worse than to take a page from this Lapwing: soaking up a little sunshine, enjoying some local food, and checking out the new scenery.