The recent incident in which 16 national political reporters beached themselves in Manchester, N.H., has been tentatively laid by experts to confusion in the reporters' normal migratory patterns.

The reporters were found stranded in the lobby of the Sheraton-Wayfarer Motor Inn in Manchester. After being told that the New Hampshire primary election was eight months away, they refused all sustenance and efforts to remove them were of no avail. All perished.

Behavioral experts trying to explain the phenomenon said the school of reporters was apparently affected by an unusual compression of political events that disrupted the species' normal timetable.

Once their internal chemistry signaled the traditional migratory cycle, the experts said, the reporters were helpless to restrain their built-in biological drives and thus beached themselves months before Hew Hampshire could sustain them.

The uncharacteristic behavior of the political reporters can likely be traced back more than three years, to the winter of 1976. Rapid and unforeseen political developments during that period, culminating in the nomination and election of an unknown to the presidency, began to affect the delicate balance of the reporters, causing aberrations in their natural cycle.

Since then, some have been observed tentatively repeating, at the wrong time, their quadrennial group movements. This was apparently an attempt to discover where they had deviated from their regular patterns. Unpredictable policies and actions by the new president seemed to have deepened the disorientation of the reporters.

This confusion, it appears, triggered among them an overwhelming drive to hasten the presidential election process, which is the life force of the species. Perhaps, disoriented as they were, they hoped to recover their natural "compasses" by following their traditional cycle but within a compressed time frame.,

Thus the inexorable preparations for the cycle began much earlier than the pcoress normally dictates. Opinion polls, which unlock the migratory drive of the reporters, were digested many months ahead of schedule. Think pieces appeared before their time. Candidate profiles crowded the near-saturated chemistry of the species. News magazine cover stories defied the calendar, blossoming and beckoning in the right season of the wrong year.

This bombardment of stimuli was overpowering. And so the vanguard of e reportorial cycle began its ill-timed progression to New Hampshire and a a sad ending in the lobby of the Sheraton-Wayfarer Motor Inn.

The prospects for the immediate future of the species are no less bleak. "Once the migratory drive of political reporters has been awakened," said one expert, "there is little likelihood it can be arrested in progress."

"A tragedy," he added. "And more than a year before the conventions."