March is more than half over and I have about 8 more new spots I have to visit to get enough bird checklists into eBird for the binocular contest. eBird, an online, international bird census group, gives away a free pair of binoculars every month. All you have to do is complete the monthly assignment and you are entered into the drawing. I’m not sure I can get the job done. My driver and co-spotter is down with ‘la gripa’. Burt blames the singing kids (notorious disease vectors) for laying him low. It’s a bummer to see him finally succumb after his defenses protected him when I was sick.
Biridng, like everything, is easier the more you do it. These first forays on our own are a little bit intimidating. There are so many birds that are difficult to identify. Here in our own yard I have been plagued by a sprightly yellow bird that flits in and out of our aloe. At first I thought it was a yellow warbler, then I thought maybe a female common yellow throat. The more I looked and the more I birded the more I realized I wasn’t quite right. But the darn thing kept flitting by. I never got a solid look. Yesterday while I was stalking some fantastic male mating displays by the local cactus wrens the unknown small yellowish thing came into view. I missed the shots of the cactus wrens showing off but finally got some of the yellow bird. I blew up my pictures and lamented. WTH is this innocuous yellow thing? I was ready to call it a canary. Before I burst into tears I remembered the internet. Lots of opinions out there in Facebook and I have some very skilled birding friends. Why not ask them?
Within minutes of tagging my friends on the photo a local helpful type responded with: It might be a warbler, or a pine siskin,or a sparrow. This is why people run from the internet screaming. What can you do when a cheery but ill informed somebody suggests three totally unrelated and not nearly specific enough ideas. Two of which are just flat out impossible. Warbler was correct but there’s only twenty or more yellowish warblers in North America. I tried to say thank you but managed to not be as nice as I could have been. This person was trying to help but in way over their heads. And since they paired it with sparrow and pine siskin I’m guessing they just got lucky. And further proves I am not as nice a person as I wish I was.
Lucky for me other people with more knowledge than me felt sympathy and weighed in rapidly with the correct ID. It was unanimous that we had an orange crowned warbler. This particular bird was in my thoughts but since I never saw an orange crown I kept ruling it out. It took more experienced people to assure me that the orange crown is rarely seen. I was assured it’s a hard ID to make unless you know what to look for. The bright yellow under the tail end is what distinguishes this bird from its lookalike cousins. I’m feeling better about the struggle and realize that the fight to learn is what makes something memorable. Just like those balls I hit into the net in tennis or the bad bids Burt is going to make in Bridge. The struggle is the process.