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A Christmas Dove - kie

Posted 12/20/08
By Jane Kashlak

Cape May, NJ - It's that time of year when we start looking for strange visitors from the North Pole with white beards.

We got ours early.

Joe Grottola was driving past Congress Hall last evening when he thought he saw a bird in the street. But it was unlike any bird he had ever seen.

Turns out, it was a Puffin-like bird called a Dovekie.

A Dovekie spends most of its life on the water. It doesn't usually frequent Cape May streets. Grottola is a local educator who spends a considerable amount of time on the water, as well. He and his wife Lisa Roselli are serious surfers.

The little bird seemed stunned, so Joe and Lisa got the bird back into some water - in their bathtub. The question - what to do now?

They called Paul Kerlinger, a bird migration expert and Cape May Times outdoors editor. In all the years he's studied birds, Paul had never seen a Dovekie. It's no wonder. These tiny birds nest in arctic Canada and Greenland and generally don't wander too far south.

Rarely as far as Cape May.

Paul saw right away that the bird was healthy and feisty. Ready for a bigger swimming pool.

Joe bundled the little Dovekie up in an empty Lands End Christmas box and they set out looking for the perfect spot to launch the seabird.

First stop - Cove Beach - way too windy. The little bird would have had to do battle with the same fierce southeasterly wind that blew him off course in the first place.

Next stop - Cape May Point's Alexander Avenue Beach. Much better. Very little wind.

Joe bid the little fellow farewell and got ready to set him free.

Gently he placed him in the soft waves along the stony beach. But the waves tumbled him right back to shore.

The Dovekie didn't give up. These birds can dive under water. So, when the next wave hit, instead of trying to swim on top, the bird dove under the waves.

It worked. He disappeared into the blackness of the night.

The whole thing happened so quickly, Joe and Paul searched the shoreline for 50 yards, to make sure the Dovekie hadn't washed ashore again.

But no trace. The little stranger from the North Pole was back on his way.

Now, there might be some who have a hard time believing such a rare bird ever touched down in Cape May last night. They also, no doubt, are the same people who don't believe in that other wonderful visitor from the North Pole.

To them we say, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good flight.

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