The Mourning Dove

Interesting Bird Encounter at The Big House

Had an interesting, and strange… bird encounter Saturday. cameraguy is the big board video person for Michigan Sports Television at Michigan Stadium (The Big House) for most University of Michigan Wolverine home football games. I get to be his utility (I hold/wrap the video cable). We stand in the NW student corner of the end zone all game. Pretty good seats!

He was showing pregame warmups of the Michigan players on the Big Board when I noticed a Mourning Dove come flying in – birds often fly around in the stadium for some reason. This odd behaving bird landed in the end zone and hunkered down in the middle of the blue painted section, which I imagine had to be extremely ‘warm’ Saturday afternoon as I was roasting! The sun cooks that corner when it’s hot and it was HOT Saturday! Temps went into the 80s and The Big House is a huge hole sunk into the ground! The wind, if any, doesn’t always reach the edge around the field.

So, there’s half the football players lined up along the 1 to the 10 yard line doing warm-up drills. The track around the end zone is packed with persons shooting video, still photographers and all of the guests who have pregame passes to be down on the field! There’s 110,000+ packing into this big stadium. It’s getting very noisy, and here’s this Mourning Dove hunkered down in the blue paint in the end zone in the middle of it all!?!

Most of the time in my experience mourning doves seem to be a little shy and jumpy so I’m more than a little surprised this bird has landed where it has?? Maybe even stranger, no one else out of the milling packs of people surrounding the dove and the student fans crowding into The Big House seem to notice this bird has decided to take a break in the end zone?!?

I looked around and did not see anyone else watching the bird. It was like the bird was invisible!?! No players noticed. There were event staff and football staff walking back and forth, crisscrossing the end zone from all directions. Several walked within just a few feet of the dove. All it did was hunker down even lower trying to ‘hide’ I guess.

I should have taken a picture with my phone but I was thinking it might be really funny if I could get cameraguy to turn his video camera to it (though I didn’t know how that would go over with him or the crew back in the studio?). He was live on the Big Board showing the players warming up nearby so I didn’t dare distract him – that is a big no-no when his shot is on the board! I stood next to him on the edge of the end zone hoping he would stop shooting for a moment while I continued to stare at this strange bird ‘hiding’ in the end zone nervously watching the hordes of people moving all around itself!!

This went on several minutes. I looked at the large number of people around me several times still not seeing anyone else apparently aware there was a large bird squatting in the end zone?!? Finally, I saw a photographer walking lengthwise through the center of the end zone. He as heading straight towards the dove! I thought at some point he would have to notice a large brown bird laying in the blue paint but he never even glanced ahead of his stride.

The photographer literally missed stepping on the mourning dove by inches with this odd dove flushing off the turf at the last possible moment before his foot tread on it! The dove flew up and turned sharply flying straight at my bright maize-colored hat! It missed my hat by maybe 2 feet continuing up and over The Big House before flying out and to wherever its next stop will be…

cameraguy was still on his shot so he never saw it with his eye locked on the video camera eyepiece. It was too noisy to hear the bird. Even I, looking at the bird and having it fly with a couple feet of my head, could hardly hear anything with the noise of all these people. I did not notice anyone else see or watch the bird the whole time it flew up, over my head and finally out of the stadium. Was the bird invisible? Or is everyone except me so caught up in the impending football game that nothing else can draw their attention? It was kind of surreal.

The bird seemed fine. Just strange. Several times a game birds will fly around and even down into the stadium. Maybe that many people, and that much noise confuses them? Though they usually seem okay. The mourning dove flew strong and looked healthy. It just acted a little strange for a type of larger bird that generally seems more wary than this. I’ll never know for sure but it did add to the interest of the day for me anyways.

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