Dovekie in Roxbury (Corrected)

[This post has been edited to correct the Laura Ingalls Wilder reference (I had the wrong book) and to expand with some quotes from The Long Winter.]

The dovekie is an Arctic bird that plays off the coast of New England near Georges’ Bank in the winter but I don’t think one has ever been found in my neighborhood before.  The Boston Globe had the story  and picture on last Friday. 

The dovekie, called a little auk in Europe, was dropped off at the Boston Rescue 2 firehouse on Columbus Avenue in Egleston Square on Thursday night, said Greg Conlan, a firefighter with Rescue 2.

Conlan said the small bird was brought into the station at 7 p.m. by three 10-year-old children.

The bird, which was in a box, looked plump but exhausted, he said.

“It looked tired. It definitely wasn’t going anywhere, but it wasn’t on its last leg or anything,” he said.

Firefighters named the dovekie Olive, the name given to every animal that comes through the firehouse, Conlan said. There is a cat and a turtle living at the station, both with the name Olive.

Here is Olive in her box.


The bird was transported to the New England Wildlife Center in South Weymouth, Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said.

Wayne Petersen, director of the Important Bird Areas program for the Massachusetts Audubon Society, received a call from the wildlife center this morning asking for advice about where to release the bird, he said.

“The bird was obviously blown into the city by the big storm on Thursday,” Petersen said. “It’s a species that once it’s on the ground, they have great difficulty taking off.”

He advised the caretakers to release Olive in waters not heavily populated by gulls, because the small bird could be prey for larger species.

The nice thing about the story is that 3 10 year old boys were thoughtful enough to try to take care of the dovekie by trying to feed it crackers [I’m sure they feed pigeon being city kids.] and then bringing it to the fire station.

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, The Long Winter, a little auk lands near their house and the family releases it off Silver Lake.  “They had never seen a bird like it.  It was small, but it looked exactly like the picture of the great auk in Pa’s big green book, ‘The Wonders of The Animal World’.”  The little auk had been found in a haystack.  The next day Pa, Laura, and Mary go to release the bird.

He squatted down by the thin white ice at the lake’s edge and reaching far out he tipped the little bird from his hand into the blue water.  For the briefest instant, there it was, and then it wasn’t there.  Our amoung the ice cakes it was streaking, a black speck.

“It gets up speed, with those webbed feet,” said Pa, “to lift it from the….There it goes!”

This is the only other time I can remember hearing about them in unusual places.

No word yet on a successful release here in Boston, but we have been having a snow/rain and now wind storm for the last 24 hours so probably no one has tried yet.

Little auks when not in Egleston Square.

Little Auks

Little Auks (Photo credit: Alastair Rae)

Summer Reading

I was away for a few days last week and did what I always do in Vermont: hike a little and read and relax a lot.  There are several books in my sister’s library I re-read once a year:  Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright.

Understood Betsy

This is the story of a little orphan girl around 1900 who has to leave the home of her aunt in an unspecified mid-western city and move to near Putney, Vermont.  She learns self-sufficiency, kindness and, most of all, what it takes to be happy.  My sister’s hardback is so old, it was published when Dorothy Canfield has not yet added the Fisher.  It was published in 1917.  The book is like the Little House Books by Laura Ingalls Wilder in the way in which they talk about how to do things like churn butter and make applesauce.  And of course, it is about Vermont.

Gone-Away Lake is also a children’s book.  First published in 1957, it tells the story of young, almost teens who discover an abandoned resort on a lake that became a swamp after a dam was built.  They discover a brother and sister fallen on hard times who moved back to where they had once spent summers.  They have adventures and keep the discovery a secret as long as they can from their parents.  It is a book about accepting differences couched in a summer vacation story.  There is a sequal, Return to Gone-Away in which one of the abandoned houses is purchased and restored by one of the families. 

Elizabeth Enright

Elizabeth Enright won a Newberry Honor award for Gone-Away Lake.

My other favorite thing to do is to poke around a wonderful used bookstore in Brattleboro, Brattleboro Books.  (They, like all bookstores, need a little press.) This year the treasure I unearthed by Dorothy Gilman’s The Tightrope Walker.  I had not thought about it or read it in many years, but the minute I spotted the book, it all came back to me.  It is the story of a young woman who solves a mystery and discovers herself. (Is there a theme to these books?)

The heroine finds a note in a hurdy-gurdy and follows a trail to uncover a the secret of the note writer’s murder.  It is an old-fashioned follow the clues where ever they lead mystery with some romance thrown in.   Gilman wrote the tightrope walker in 1979 in between writing her better known Mrs. Pollifax spy stories.

So now you know what I read on my summer vacation.