Dovekie (part 2) 11/24/09

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Picking up from yesterday’s cliffhanger with a Dovekie in mortal peril on the rocks off Seapoint… After the big wave drove it into the rocks, I was certain the bird had perished and was watching below for signs of it washing ashore, but it was nowhere to be seen. Then about 50 feet offshore and more to the south, I spotted a new bird, a white one, but which turned out to be the Dovekie floating on its back. Perhaps the undertow had somehow sucked it back out behind the breakers.

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Miraculously, its little legs were moving, then after a bit of flailing, it righted itself in the water looking no worse than it had minutes before. Some impulse must have taken hold for it to swim underwater away from the breaking waves. Why hadn’t it done so earlier? I can only presume its injured wing made it difficult or painful, and only in that final moment of impending death did instinct override everything else.

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Despite the reprieve, over the next hour I kept watch helplessly as the wind and seas kept driving it back into the breakers, but each time the bird mustered enough strength to gain safety behind the surf, and slowly but surely it was moving southwards, almost against its will which was to head straight into the northeast wind. I’ve had a similar experience caught in a riptide, instinct drives you to fight the current, but intelligence tells you to cross it instead and reach safety without exhausting yourself. In this back and forth struggle the Dovekie was now moving across the face of Seapoint from north to south. Finally it rounded the last little jagged set of rocks where some Purple Sandpipers were hanging out, and there was a mile or more of open water in the cove that forms Crescent Beach. For the next hour at least, it would be able to rest and regroup before facing the dangers of the next point down the shore on Gerrish Island.

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I’ll never know its ultimate fate, but was relieved to be spared having to witness it. Perhaps the wind would let up or change direction, perhaps it would make it another couple miles south to the mouth of the Piscataqua and the ebbing tide from the river would carry it out to sea. All I could do now was to wish it well on its perilous journey and hope for the best.

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