Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birding Is Fun
May 06, 2017
By Steve Grinley

     Birding has a way of keeping us looking on the bright side of life. The colorful birds of spring lift our spirits and help give us perspective in what sometimes seems like a colorless world. Why? Because birding is fun, as Doug Chickering shares a late April encounter:

     “I have already reconciled myself to the reality that my birding, this year, will not be the same as it has been. Circumstances have made chasing and intense birding very unlikely. I think that it is possible I could be bitter about this, or at least unhappy. And that was always a possibility. But I have discovered that strangely, the opposite has happened. I don’t get out as much anymore so those moments I spend in the field are all the more precious and cherished. The birds at our feeders deserve special attention and I have been rewarded with a couple of visits from Pine Warbler and, on two separate occasions, Fox Sparrow. I don’t think I have enjoyed similar visits by these birds in past half s much as this year. 

     “Today I visited an old favorite patch for the first time this spring: the grove at the Salisbury Campgrounds. This was my first delightful encounter with the new season. Nothing really noteworthy, surely nothing for the hotlines or special attention on e-bird (which I don’t use in any case) but still it was a great lift to the spirits. There were actually quite a few birds even with a limited number of species. One large conifer at the lower entrance to the grove had at least eight Ruby-crowned Kinglets in it; all flitting and feeding and popping in and out of the sun. They were my first sighting of Ruby-crowns this year and it was probably as many in one place as I have ever seen. 

     “As I walked into the lower area there were grackles, of course, a few more kinglets and a goodly number of Hermit Thrushes flying up from the leaf litter to perch on a low branch to give me a suspicious stare. First Hermits of the year. There were many Hermit Thrushes all through the Grove which is more or less typical for this time of year at this location and it served to remind me of some of the local, special joys of spring birding. 

     “Then there was the best treat of all. Up on the hill I noticed movement among the dead branches of a pine tree and there, in the sun a Solitary Vireo. He moved in the tree with that special plodding, unexcited determination that is so typical of this specie. Careful, methodical, he moved about with short flights and little hops and all the while stayed in the sun and like a starlet on a red carpet, showed off his fine subtle plumage. 

     “Solitary Vireo is a special bird for me on so many levels. I had almost forgotten how basically beautiful is the male Solitary Vireo; especially as he has just arrived in new finery. Not flashy or garish his colors are deep and crisp and nicely balanced, with dark blues and white and olive and an understated yellow at the flanks; it is a bird for the connoisseur. To be savored and enjoyed at leisure. Today in the sun he was nothing short of striking. 

     “I also love this bird as it is a precursor to the oncoming migrations when, hopefully, the trees will be sporting Blackburnians [warblers], Tanagers, Bay breasted [warblers], etc. etc. I also take a secret subversive pleasure at insisting on calling it a Solitary Vireo. My use of Solitary Vireo is usually met with a quick correction (“Blue-headed vireo”), or a look of confusion. A mini revolt against the march of that part of science that can be trivial and unnecessary. Solitary Vireo it was and in my mind, Solitary Vireo it will always be.  

     “So if during the incoming waves of migrations I feel anxious or unhappy over misses, I will always have the Solitary Vireo, and the others, and I know I will be able to take a special joy in whatever does come my way. After all, birding is fun.”

     And the fun continued for Doug as just this past week he reported the following:

     “Like the bolt of lightning that startled me from last night’s slumber, it was almost a shock, a blaze of brilliance in the gloomy dark morning. Not that the backyard was colorless, even in the cloudy dim light. The lawn is deep green and the Red-bud tree is in bloom and the jonquils are bright yellow and white. 

     “But it was a sunless, dark morning and as Lois and I sat down for our coffee and breakfast there it was; the bright flash of spring. Sitting on our hanging feeder a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. He was back to us, but even then, the pristine white shone in the meager light and deep cosmic black stood out in sharp contrast to the general drizzly background. It was a freshly plumaged male reporting for duty and ready for love. Then he turned and there at the center of his breast, at the center of the yard, at the center of our awed attention was that rose red. There is no better way to begin a May morning than a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at your feeders.”

     So what is at your feeders that makes birding fun?

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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