Friday, September 21, 2012

Accidentals and Rare Vagrants

Wedge-Shaped Shearwater, a Pacific tropical seabird listed as an "accidental".

“These are birds that have been recorded only as accidental vagrants in the region, and are either not described or mentioned only marginally in the main text. They all originate from areas beyond, and sometimes well beyond, the region.  Most are simply lost migrants, blown off course by adverse winds.”

Von Schrenk's Bittern, another accidental first noted in Italy in 1912, hails from China and Siberia.

This excerpt from Collins Pocket Guide Birds of Britain and Europe precedes a listing of dozens of “accidentals” found in Europe – birds presumably from North America, the Caribbean, Southern Asia or Eastern Africa -- including seabirds, wildfowl, shore birds, swallows, martins, finches and sparrows.  Lewington, Alström and Colston’s Field Guide to the Rare Birds of Britain and Europe is recommended as a source for further reading and research.

I, and I suspect a lot of people, find Collins’ text very affecting.  Everyone feels at times like a lost migrant, blown off course by adverse winds.

The “accidental” Diederik Cuckoo breeds in Africa south of the Sahara desert.

This weekend we’ll be visiting the southern New Jersey shore (link) again, as we try to do every year.  A number of seasons ago we discovered our own “accidental” – a Green Wood Hoopoe that I once wrote about here, who I imagine must have escaped from the Cape May County Zoo following a bad storm in 2010.  At the time we noticed him, he had actually adopted (or been adopted) into a family of birds.  It would be nice to see him again. 


A family of Green Wood Hoopoes, a near-passerine formerly known as the Red-Billed Wood Hoopoe, in their native Botswana habitat.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes? -- Fairport Convention (Link)


  1. I felt sad reading about accidental vagrants, and indeed have felt like one from time to time, although not lately. Perhaps you will see your green wood hoopoe - clearly a spectacular bird.

    Enjoy Cape May. By the way, I used to sing Who Knows Where The Time Goes back in the day, It was always a favorite of mine and so nice to hear it again. It's full of time and space. Nell

  2. Accidentals, vagrants and escapes have always interested me a lot, so I'm glad this reached you also. We always see great birds down here and it's the only place I really sleep well. I read once that Who Knows Where The Time Goes was actually the first song Sandy Denny wrote and completed. It's an amazing piece of work and a remarkable recording. I only saw Fairport Convention perform live once, but it was a fabulous performance that stays with me. Curtis