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杜鹃飞去哪儿了?一场跨越大洋的壮丽迁徙

更新时间:2016-11-17 9:59:49 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

With a Cuckoo’s Journey From China, a Mystery Is Solved, and Cheers Go Up
杜鹃飞去哪儿了?一场跨越大洋的壮丽迁徙

BEIJING — When Flappy McFlapperson and Skybomb Bolt sprang into the sky for their annual migration from wetlands near Beijing, nobody was sure where the two cuckoos were going. They and three other cuckoos had been tagged with sensors to follow them from northern China.

北京——当“飞飞·麦克飞飞逊”(Flappy McFlapperson)和“轰天闪电鸟”(Skybomb Bolt)从北京附近的湿地飞向天空,开始每年的迁徙时,没人知道这两只杜鹃要飞向哪里。它们和另外三只杜鹃被安上传感器,跟踪他们从中国北方出发。

But to where?

但是,要去哪儿呢?

“These birds are not known to be great fliers,” said Terry Townshend, a British amateur bird watcher living in the Chinese capital who helped organize the Beijing Cuckoo Project to track the birds. “Migration is incredibly perilous for birds, and many perish on these journeys.”

“这种鸟在飞翔方面并不算出众,”住在中国首都的英国业余观鸟爱好者特里·汤曾德(Terry Townshend)说。他帮助组织了追踪这些鸟的北京杜鹃计划(Beijing Cuckoo Project)。 “迁徙对鸟类来说非常危险,很多鸟在迁徙途中死去。”

Skybomb Bolt, a common cuckoo, after he was fitted with a satellite tag in May at the Hanshiqiao Wetland in Beijing. By late October, he had flown to Africa.
今年5月,在北京汉石桥湿地被装上卫星跟踪器后的大杜鹃“轰天闪电鸟”。10月底,他已经飞到了非洲。

The answer to the mystery — unfolding in passages recorded by satellite for more than five months — has been a humbling revelation even to many experts. The birds’ journeys have so far covered thousands of miles, across a total of a dozen countries and an ocean. The “common cuckoo,” as the species is called, turns out to be capable of exhilarating odysseys.

通过五个多月的卫星记录路线,谜题的答案得以揭晓。这个发现令许多专家都深感惭愧。到目前为止,它们的旅程跨越数千英里,包括十几个国家和一个大洋,证明这种被称为“大杜鹃”(common cuckoo)的鸟类能够进行惊人的长途旅行。

“It’s impossible not to feel an emotional response,” said Chris Hewson, an ecologist with the British Trust for Ornithology in Thetford, England, who has helped run the tracking project. “There’s something special about feeling connected to one small bird flying across the ocean or desert.”

“不可能不激动,”英国塞特福德英国鸟类信托基金会(British Trust for Ornithology)的生态学家克里斯· 休森(Chris Hewson)说。该基金会帮助运营该追踪项目。“牵挂着一只飞越大洋或沙漠的小鸟,是一种特别的感觉。”

But to follow a cuckoo, you must first seduce it.

但是要追踪杜鹃鸟,必须先诱捕它。

The common cuckoo is by reputation a cynical freeloader.

大杜鹃以自私自利、爱占便宜闻名。

Mothers outsource parenting by laying their eggs in the nests of smaller birds, and the birds live on grubs, caterpillars and similar soft morsels. British and Chinese bird groups decided to study two cuckoo subspecies found near Beijing, because their winter getaways were a puzzle. In an online poll for the project, nearly half the respondents guessed they went somewhere in Southeast Asia.

鸟妈妈会把自己的蛋放到更小的鸟的巢里,让别人给自己养孩子。这种鸟以蛆、毛毛虫和其他类似的软体昆虫为食。英国和中国的鸟类团体决定研究在北京附近发现的两个杜鹃鸟亚种,因为它们在冬天的避寒之地一直是个谜。在该项目的在线调查中,近一半的受访者猜测它们去了东南亚的某个地方。

“We really didn’t know for sure,” said Yu Fang, a coffee importer, a prominent member of the Beijing bird-watching community and a volunteer on the project.

“当时我们真的不能确定,”咖啡进口商、北京观鸟圈内的知名人士、该计划的志愿者于方说。

“We knew that the cuckoos breed around here. But where do they go over winter? I guessed it was India,” Mr. Yu said. “I’ve been bird-watching in India, and they are often spotted there. I thought that’s where they stopped.”

“我们知道杜鹃在这里繁殖。但是冬天它们去了哪里?当时我猜的是印度,”于方说,“我去印度观鸟的时候,经常能看到它们。我以为它们会在那里停下。”

To tag the birds, the team set up soft, barely visible nets in May to safely catch the birds. A stuffed female cuckoo was attached to a tree or bush, and a recording of the bird’s come-hither mating call was played out.

今年5月,为了给这些鸟安上跟踪器,团队布置了一些柔软的、几乎看不见的网,以便安全地捕捉它们。他们还在树上或灌木上安了一只雌性杜鹃玩偶,并播放这种鸟充满诱惑的求偶叫声的录音。

They responded lustily.

它们的反应非常热烈。

“The male cuckoos just can’t resist. They come in from a long way,” said Mr. Townshend, who works as a consultant on a variety of environmental projects. Unexpectedly, female cuckoos also came to the party, seemingly jealous about an apparent rival in their patch, he said.

“雄性杜鹃真的抗拒不了这种诱惑。它们从很远的地方飞来,”汤曾德说。他是很多环境项目的顾问。他说,出人意料的是,雌性杜鹃也来参加这场派对,她们似乎为自己的领地上出现一位明显的对手而感到嫉妒。

After excluding birds too light to safely carry the sensors, the team attached solar-powered tags weighing 0.16 ounce to the backs of five birds, each weighing around 3.5 ounces, and freed them into the wild, where satellites followed the signals from their tags. Such technology has revolutionized the study of migratory birds since the 1990s.

在剔除体重太轻、无法安全携带传感器的鸟后,团队在五只鸟的背上安装了重0.16盎司(约合4.5克)的太阳能跟踪器——每只鸟的重量约为3.5盎司——然后将它们放生。卫星可以追踪这些跟踪器发出的信号。自20世纪90年代以来,这种技术使候鸟研究实现了突破性进展。

“Tracking technology has ushered in a new age of exploration,” Mr. Hewson said.

“追踪技术开创了一个新的探索时代,”休森说。

But the project was also intended to raise awareness of wild birds and their needs, especially in China, where expanding cities, pollution and commercial capture with huge nets threaten the creatures. Schools in Beijing for local and foreign children gave the birds their names. As well as Flappy and Skybomb, there was Hope, Zigui and Meng Zhi Juan, a poetic Chinese phrase meaning “dream bird.”

不过,该项目还旨在提高公众对野生鸟类及其需求的认识,尤其是在中国,不断扩大的城市、污染以及巨大的商业利益在威胁这些生物。北京的一些为当地和外国学生设立的学校给这些鸟起了名字。除了“飞飞”和“轰天”之外,还有“希望”、“子规”和“梦之娟”。

The wait began. As blazing summer arrived, time approached for the birds to begin their migration. But not all could. Cuckoos often have brief lives. The trackers ran out of contact with Hope after she flew north to Russia, possibly dying or losing her tag. And Zigui’s signal stopped near Beijing, where he probably perished.

等待开始了。随着炎热夏季的到来,这些鸟就要开始迁徙了,但并不是所有的鸟都能如愿。杜鹃鸟的寿命通常很短。“希望”向北飞到俄罗斯之后,追踪者跟她失去了联系,她可能已经死去或弄丢了自己的跟踪器。“子规”的信号在北京附近停止,他很可能已经死去。

Then in early August, Flappy struck south, followed weeks later by Skybomb and then Meng Zhi Juan. Each day, Mr. Townshend checked the satellite data to see whether any other birds were on the move. Their journeys, chronicled on Twitter, drew in more and more fans, including me.

8月初,“飞飞”开始向南飞。数周之后,“轰天”和“梦之娟”也开始南飞。汤曾德每天查看卫星数据,看看有没有其他鸟也开始行动。它们的旅程记录在Twitter上,吸引了越来越多的人,包括我。

By mid-September, Skybomb and Flappy were in India. That more or less ruled out the idea that they were headed to Southeast Asia, and they appeared likely to head west. But by which route?

9月中旬,“轰天”和“飞飞”到了印度。这或多或少排除了它们前往东南亚的可能,它们似乎很可能会往西飞。但是走哪条线呢?

The first answer came in late October. Skybomb struck out boldly from central India and, without stopping, headed across the northern Indian Ocean, apparently aiming to reach Africa in one lunge. It was a breathtaking gamble for one of these small birds.

10月底出现了第一个答案。“轰天”勇敢地展翅从印度中部起飞,片刻不停地飞越印度洋北部,显然是想一口气飞到非洲。对这样一只小鸟来说,这是惊人的赌博。

“When Skybomb set out across the ocean, it was like, Whoa! He’s going for it,” Mr. Townshend said. Skybomb had fattened on grubs, but Africa was thousands of miles away without the prospect of a stop or meal in between.

“‘轰天’开始飞越印度洋时,我的反应是:哇!他真的要飞了,”汤曾德说。虽然“轰天”用虫子把自己喂肥了,但非洲远在几千英里之外,途中可能无法停歇或进食。

“It was a real celebratory moment,” Mr. Townshend said. “But fingers were crossed that he was going to make it across the ocean.”

“那真是一个令人兴奋的时刻,”汤曾德说,“不过,大家都为他祈祷,希望他能飞越印度洋。”

There was an implacable logic in the cuckoos’ seeming folly, said Mr. Hewson, who had guessed that they would go to Africa. They stopped over in India when rains had still left plenty of food there and waited for the monsoon winds to make a drastic turnaround, so the birds could fly onward with the help of the breeze. Cuckoos that summer in Europe also head to Africa to avoid the winter.

休森说,杜鹃鸟表面的愚蠢背后是不可改变的逻辑。他曾猜测它们会飞往非洲。它们在雨水给印度留下丰富食物的时候在那里停留,等待季风突然掉转方向,以便借着风力往前飞。那个夏天欧洲的杜鹃也飞往非洲避寒。

Skybomb plowed on. Flying at roughly 2,600 feet above the sea, he held to an astonishingly straight path, apparently calibrating for shifts in the wind and conditions. By the second day, he was halfway across. After a third day, the east coast of Africa, and food and rest, beckoned.

“轰天”继续奋力向前飞。他在海面以上约2600英尺(约合792米)的高度飞行,路线惊人地笔直,显然是根据风向和天气条件进行过校准。第二天,他飞了一半。第三天过后,非洲的东海岸、食物和休息已经近在眼前。

For much of the flight, tailwinds helped Skybomb. But as land approached, crosswinds and then a front-on headwind struck. It was a moderate breeze, but maybe enough to exhaust a cuckoo after days without stopping.

在飞行的大部分时间,顺风帮了他的忙。但是快到陆地时,侧风和正面逆风袭来。风力很小,但足以让一只已经数日没有休息的杜鹃鸟筋疲力竭。

On Oct. 31, Mr. Townshend announced on Twitter that Skybomb “is in Africa!”

10月31日,汤曾德在Twitter上宣布,轰天“到非洲了!”

Sixty-four days after he had begun his migration, the cuckoo had reached the coast of Somalia about an hour after dusk. He had flown nonstop for 2,300 miles from central India. “What a bird!” Mr. Townshend declared.

在迁徙开始64天后,这只杜鹃大约在日落一小时后到达索马里海岸。他从印度中部开始不停地飞了2300英里(约合3700公里)。“真是一只了不起的鸟!”汤曾德感叹道。

But even then, Skybomb was not done. Right away, he flew for another 190 miles until he reached an area where recent rains would have brought a proliferation of caterpillars and grubs to eat. Somehow, he knew where to follow the rain.

不过,即使到那时,“轰天”还不罢休。他马上又飞了190英里(约合305公里),到达一个地区,那里最近的雨水滋生了大量可供食用的毛毛虫和蛆。不知为何,他总是知道去哪里追随雨水。

The other birds began their long flights later than Skybomb. Flappy took a more cautious path, crossing the Arabian Sea from India to Oman. That made for a shorter flight over water, but also meant she hit land in northern Africa, farther from the lusher terrain to the south. By Friday, Meng Zhi Juan had jumped to just a few miles from the Indian coast and appeared poised to follow Skybomb’s swoop across the ocean to Somalia or thereabouts. The birds appear likely to edge south in Africa, following the rains. If they survive, they are expected to arrive back in Beijing in May.

其他几只鸟晚于“轰天”开始自己的长途飞行。“飞飞”采取了一条更为谨慎的路线,从印度飞越阿拉伯海到达阿曼。这样她在海面上飞行的距离较短,但那也意味着,她是在非洲北部着陆,离食物充足的南部更远。到周五,“梦之娟”从印度沿岸飞出几英里,似乎是打算像“轰天”那样,飞越印度洋,到达索马里或附近地区。这些鸟似乎很可能会跟随雨水在非洲慢慢向南迁徙。如果它们能活下来,预计会于明年5月返回北京。

Mr. Townshend and his colleagues hope to follow more cuckoos next year, if they attract enough donations to pay for the tags and satellite services. More knowledge will help protect the areas where the birds need to stop.

汤曾德和同事们希望明年能够跟踪更多杜鹃鸟——如果他们能获得足够多的捐款以支付跟踪器和卫星服务的费用的话。获得更多信息将会帮助保护那些鸟需要停留的地方。

“They’re birds that are shared by China, India, Myanmar, Somalia and wherever else they go,” Mr. Townshend said. “With that comes a shared responsibility to protect them.”

“这些鸟属于中国、印度、缅甸、索马里以及它们途径的所有地方,”汤曾德说,“所以,保护它们是我们共同的责任。”

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