National Geographic : 1924 Feb
THE HAWAIIA road to its brink, and Mauna Loa, the world's greatest active volcano. The naturalist and student can find oc cupation and enjoyment for a lifetime in investigating and collecting land shells (see Color Plate XII), the incomparable wealth of endemic plants, and Hawaiian folklore. The tiny islands at the extreme west ern end of the Territory form the Ha waiian Bird Reservation. Of these Lay san supports the most interesting bird colony in the world (see pages 123, 151, and 152). To this bit of sandy beach, scarcely two and one-half miles long and one mile wide, millions of birds of many species resort every winter season. So crowded are they that some find it necessary to burrow underground to find a place to lay their eggs. When we think of the long journey that these birds make twice each year over the three thousand miles of ocean without a rest, the wonder is that they do not perish on the way. * "Just why the plover and all the other migratory birds undertake these weari some flights across the wild open ocean it seems must ever remain a mystery. Without doubt, when storms are encoun tered many must lose their way and go down to watery graves, or, thrown from their course, must fly for days over the great dull expanse in search of land. Perhaps it was in some such accidental way that the first plover happened to visit Hawaii in the long ago. OLD "STUMP-LEG" "It is interesting to know that once the journey is successfully made, barring accident, the voyager is able ever after wards to make the passage with unerring accuracy. An interesting case in point is the record I secured from Mr. Max Schlemmer, who for several years was the manager of the colony of laborers formerly stationed on Laysan. "On one occasion a fine male bird, that was in the habit of roosting every night on a little mound of sand a few rods from the door of the manager's house, attracted his attention as it fluttered about on the sand apparently unable to fly. * From "Natural History of Hawaii," by Wil liam Alanson Bryan. AN ISLANDS 189 "Picking it up, it was found that it had broken its leg and was in a pitiable con dition. The manager amputated the leg at the fracture and set the bird at liberty. To the surprise of all, it healed perfectly. "The stump-leg furnished a mark for identification that served to distinguish the bird from its fellows, and it naturally became an object of interest in the colony. It remained about the island all winter, returning each night to its favorite roost ing-place on the sand mound. It became unusually tame and fearless. "When spring came, however, it re sponded to the most powerful call that stirs the avian brain, the homing instinct, and with its fellows left the wave-washed shores of Laysan to make the long flight back from whence they came, seemingly for no more intelligible reason than that they had made the journey before. "Naturally, the manager bade good-by forever, as he thought, to his bird neigh bor the first night it failed to return to its roost. But, being a seafaring man, and accustomed to the excellent discipline of keeping a ship's log-book, whether on land or sea, he accordingly made a note of the fact with day and date and dis missed the incident from his mind. "The summer passed, and one early autumn day the whole colony was thrown into a state of excitement by the an nouncement that the stump-leg plover had returned the night before and had been found that morning occupying his sand pile roost. The bird was apparently as much at home as though a summer cruise to some distant land was a regular occur rence and a matter of little consequence. "Naturally, so important an event as the return of the stump-leg plover to its winter home was made a matter of record in the log for the day. "The bird more than ever became the object of interest and concern on the part of all hands, for had he not accomplished a feat entitling him to the highest respect among seafaring men? Had not this bird, without a chart or compass, started from a given point in the very middle of the Pacific Ocean, and made a cruise ex tending over several months, and at least 6,ooo miles of trackless water, returned again, arriving by night at the very point of starting? Certainly old 'Stump-leg'