It came out of nowhere – a perfect respite from the guilty pleas, the crazy presidential tweets and the myriad other signs of a world gone cuckoo.

Fellow Mainers, I give you the bird report. Three avian tidings from last week’s news feed that, however fleetingly, turned my gaze away from the daily drudgery of corruption and collusion and sent my spirits soaring.

Go ahead. Roll your eyes if you must. If you’ve never taken a moment to look skyward and admire those who fly above it all, you don’t know what you’re missing.

We begin with the tale of the chickadee, brought to us by Portland Press Herald outdoors writer Deirdre Fleming and, alas, not without its own controversy:

Back in 1927, when the Legislature first dubbed the chickadee Maine’s state bird, it seems they forgot to specify whether they meant the relatively uncommon boreal chickadee, which lives mostly in Maine’s forestland, or the black-capped chickadee, which lives all over the place.

“It’s a big oversight,” Nick Lund of Falmouth, who works as a birder for Maine Audubon, told Fleming. “When you’re establishing a state symbol, you should be a little more specific.”

Many, myself included, would vote for the black-capped we see at our feeders each day. But many others say the state bird designation should go to the boreal, which is less ubiquitous thus and wouldn’t mimic Massachusetts, where they laid claim to the black-capped in 1941.

Either way, look for the Legislature to take up the debate in its coming session.

Some undoubtedly will decry that as a waste of lawmakers’ time, but I’m not so sure. Get a roomful of people talking about birds and, before long, everyone’s smiling.

Which brings us to the loons.

Last week, Maine Audubon reported good news from its latest annual loon count: Based on sightings by some 1,350 volunteers last July, the loon population here in Maine is projected to be 3,269 adults and 406 chicks – the second highest count since the census began back in 1984.

Two good things about that announcement.

First, if you’ve ever found yourself by a lake at night and heard the mournful wails of two loons echo from one shore to the other, you understand what it’s like to be transfixed not by the sight of natural beauty, but by the sound.

Second, the annual loon count would not be possible without all those hundreds of people – young and old, liberal and conservative, year-round Mainers and summer visitors – who can think of no better way to spend a July afternoon than to sit quietly in a canoe or kayak, binoculars in one hand and notepad in the other, and tabulate one of Maine’s true blessings.

Think about that the next time your eyes glaze over watching cable news.

Finally, we migrate to the stranger in our midst.

Nobody can quite explain this great black hawk, first spotted in Biddeford back in August, then on Portland’s Eastern Promenade in October and again last week at Portland’s Deering Oaks.

The large raptor, with its yellow, black-tipped bill and wingspan of 40 to 50 inches, normally ranges from Mexico down into Latin America and South America.

But Maine? It’s never happened before. In fact, this marks only the second time one has been seen anywhere in North America.

“This just keeps getting wilder,” wrote Maine Audubon naturalist Doug Hitchcox in Thursday’s “rare bird alert” that the great black hawk was now perched in a Norway spruce on the western edge of Deering Oaks, happily digesting what was by any measure the unluckiest squirrel in North America.

News of the great black’s presence spread quickly via social media. By day’s end, dozens of camera-toting bird lovers, some with children in tow, had converged on the park to marvel at this rarer-than-rare sight.

Ornithologists call this type of visitor, so hopelessly far from its normal habitat, a “vagrant.”

Interesting word choice, no? Makes me wonder where all the humans with the same label began their journey.

Beyond the thrill of the hawk actually being here lurks a troubling question: With snow already blanketing most of Maine, how long will this lonely wanderer stay put? And, assuming it doesn’t reset its internal compass and proceed south post haste, can it actually survive the looming winter?

Hard to say. One of the many posts on the Facebook page MAINE Birds – with its 19,000-plus members – showed the great black hawk getting rousted by a local red-tailed hawk who clearly harbored no sympathy for the new bird in town.

“The park literally isn’t big enough for both of them,” wrote Laurie Pocher, who captured the action on her Canon 5D Mark III. “There were LOTS of squirrels scurrying about, arguably plenty of food to go around. But the hawks never took their eyes off each other.”

Again, we humans come to mind.

The killjoys among us might argue – as some online commenters already have – that all this talk of the chickadees, the loons and the great black hawk crowds out other, more important news of the day. With so much happening in the world and so little of it good, they protest, why in the name of creation are we talking about birds?

My humble response: What better antidote to these troubled times than to step outside, look up and revel for a moment in the grace, the beauty and the sheer fortitude of creatures other than ourselves?

Put more simply, why does it always have to be about us?

I just looked out my window and saw a bright red, male cardinal sitting motionless in the spruce tree that towers over our front yard. Suddenly and inexplicably, I thought fondly of my younger sister, Beth, who left this world almost 40 years ago.

Funny how that happens.

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