I believe I crossed the threshold from casual birder to thoroughly hooked last spring when I began recognizing the song of the common yellowthroat. The song was unique, and it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t see the bird chirping it from the trees at the Pole Farm at Mercer Meadows Park.
Finally, I got a chance to ask a passerby on the trail if he could identify the bird. Without hesitation, he said, “Common yellowthroat.” He made a few “whish, whish” sounds, hoping to draw the bird out of the trees, but no luck.
Weeks, if not months, passed before I finally connected song to bird while crossing an open field. I was a few hundred yards from the row of trees where I usually heard the witchety-witchety song. There he was, the masked yellow bandit, perched on the branch of a spindly tree and singing his heart out. I even got a photo.
This spring, I’ve had no trouble finding the erstwhile elusive bird. Maybe the yellowthroats have concluded their threat assessment and consider me low risk. I have heard and seen quite a few at the Pole Farm since May, in the alley of trees I frequently walk and out in the fields as well.
As I was hiking back to my car this morning, I heard a couple of yellowthroats singing in one of the main fields. To my delight, one was maybe 20 feet off the trail, and I quickly brought my camera up and zoomed in. The result was five frames of the bird, and I’ve cropped in on the best of the lot to illustrate this post.
For me, that common yellowthroat I spotted last spring was a departure point, signifying my advancement in recognizing new species and my growing enthusiasm for birding.
For a point of comparison, I’ve gone through various stages of knowledge and capability in playing guitar. I got the easy chords (A, C, D, Em, G) down quickly. But I struggled with the fingering for the tricky B and F chords. Eventually I figured them out, and I can play them with confidence, if not competence. I can even pull off a C#m without much trouble. As my skills improve, I appreciate the music even more.
So it goes with birding. I’ve moved well past the cardinal-blue jay and raptor-vulture stages and on to warblers. With the huge variety of birds in this state, nation and world, I have plenty more to learn.
Bring it on!