This is really amazing. So here we are about 18-20 miles offshore. We are making our way into Tampa Bay. The winds are easterly, blowing away from the land. It is almost dark. All of a sudden a little bird crashes into our boat.
We normally see gulls and the occasional hawk this far our but this little fellow is clearly lost and in big trouble. He took off from the boat but had no sense of direction. He circled us a couple of times never more than a couple of feet above the ocean and not really sure what to do. It was obvious this chap is tired and doesn’t have the energy to make it back to shore. This continues for about fifteen minutes as darkness encroaches. Then, the bird makes a decision. He flies into the cockpit of the boat and perches on the chart monitor. He hops around checking things out. We keep very still. He ultimately nestles into the corner by our companion way hatch (stairs into the cabin), tucks his head under his wing and goes fast to sleep.
It took us about 5 hours to get back to our dock. Even as we readied the boat for docking, he never moved. You can see how close the binoculars are in the picture. At one point, Cindy lifted up the binoculars over his head to put them away. Not a peep. Once we were all tied up and shut down the engine, Cindy put a little bowl of water next to him and we went to bed. Using a Florida bird guide, we identified the bird as a male American Redstart whose habitat is normally woods and mangroves. The next morning, he was gone. He left us a little pile of poop. I wonder if that happened when he awoke and wondered, where the hell am I. Or, perhaps it’s a birds way of saying, thanks for the lift.