Thursday, August 30, 2007

What's your spark bird?

I learned a new birding term from Roana yesterday: "spark bird," which is "the bird that got you into birding." The cool thing is that I actually HAVE a spark bird; I didn't forget or just wander into birding.

I had always loved birds and nature, but shortly after we moved into the Marsh House in 2005, I was sitting in my back doorway, looking out at the marsh. There was barely any purple loosestrife then, so I could see a lot of little patches of cattails, short marsh grasses, all kinds of things. (sigh) Anyway, I noticed a little group of redwinged blackbirds making some squawking noises and flying in a little area just over the ground. I got my binocs and saw this weird brown bird that looked kinda like a small crane, sticking its long beak straight into the air. I ran and grabbed a book that I'd bought only a couple of months before -- a 1940s edition of Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Birds. I stared at the bird, looked at the book, stared at the bird, looked at the book -- and ID'd my first bird that wasn't a cardinal or a bluejay or a robin.

Since then, I've seen American bitterns out on the marsh and in Cape May. A very experienced birder I know and respect told me that it's rare to actually see American bitterns because they hide so well. I've seen them lots of times! He also said that there are only 5 confirmed breeding records for this upcoming Breeding Bird Atlas, and that my marsh was the first one. My report!

After that day, I was totally hooked on birding. Shortly thereafter, I started this blog. It makes me smile just to think of it -- my bittern, my little blog, and birds.

What was your spark bird?

23 comments:

John said...

For me it was a combination of glossy ibis, yellow-crowned night heron, and American oystercatcher. I first encountered all three of them around the same time. The knowledge that I could actually see such things with a little effort made me want to explore further.

Mary C said...

Hi Delia - I guess I would say the very first spark bird was from my childhood - the American Robin, and later on a bird I have never seen, but did hear often in a wooded area between my home and the elementary school I attended - the bobwhite.

dguzman said...

John--I know just what you mean! Here I was just sitting in my backyard, and I was able to see an American bittern without even trying! Your birds are so cool--I've never seen any of those.

Mary--ah, the bobwhite. When I was in elementary and jr high, I knew a guy who's dad was named Bobwhite, and when I found out it was a bird and not just some freaky white guy's name, I resolved I'd see one someday. But I still haven't! I don't even think I've heard one. And I read they're on the decline, which is really sad. Good birds! I'll bet the robin is a first-ID bird for a lot of people!

Mary said...

Delia,

I've always watched the birds during my life. As a child, Blue Jays in Baltimore city and later Mourning Doves and hawks in northeast Maryland. That's when I started feeders, fifteen years ago.

In Delaware, the red-winged blackbirds and Great Blue Herons (darn stinkers) got me going with more feeders.

Now, in NC, my spark bird would be the Tufted Titmouse and the Carolina Chickadee. Sorry - very ordinary birds but elusive when my camera is with me. I also love female Cardinals. Oh, heck, I love them all, especially the ruby throated hummers :o)

I am hooked. On birds.

Great post!

Matty Boy said...

I no longer bird, but when I was kid, I loved the meadowlark. I haven't seen one in a jillion years in the Bay Area. Though now, there are peregrine falcons. I wonder if one has anything to do with the other?

FranIAm said...

I am not a birding person, but I have something to say about this.

My mother, who died in 1991 loved Blue Jays. The angry, noisy Blue Jays that were around our porch always made her happy. She loved when they showed up.

Not so long after she died, one day I was on a retreat (in PA dguzman!) and I was really missing my mother. I felt her presence somehow and was trying to write and draw about it.

Both tasks just delivered me frustration.

Then I looked out the window and there in the north eastern PA summer was a Blue Jay on the ledge, looking right at me.

I am not so woo-woo-supernatural- and all that, but I couldn't help but think that was my mom in some way.

So that- the Jay is my spark bird. Angry, noisy and pretty to look at. So much like her indeed.

To this day I feel the same way when I see even just one.

dguzman said...

Bluejays for both Mary and FranIAm--"angry, noisy, and pretty to look at" just sums them up, no? Mary, did you see my pic of the female cardinal? Just for you!

Fran, that's neat how your mom maybe "sent" that bluejay to hearten you. Very cool.

Larry said...

My spark bird was the Bald Eagle.

nina said...

For me, I'd have to say it was hummingbirds.
They have such an interaction--hovering at the window and looking in at me--that they seem to look at birding as "social". For most others, I feel I've intruded into their world in order to satisfy myself.

dguzman said...

Larry--what a stud bird!

Nina--I know just what you mean; I always feel like whenever I'm birding.

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