Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Spark Bird

"What is a spark bird?"

A spark bird is the one bird that "lights" a single spark, which eventually leads to a "fire": A lifetime of birding for you, and some pals that you may encourage to go birding with you. Many birders' spark birds are colourful, loud songbirds seen in the spring. For others, it is a drab, elusive sparrow, hopping from one branch to the next.

"What was your spark bird?"

My spark bird was relatively quiet; a White-breasted Nuthatch. Nuthatches are small, tree-clinging birds that eat suet, peanut butter, most common birdseed and a handful of other stuff. This one in particular was a male. I named him Nutty, and a Red-breasted Nutso. He crept down the tree by our feeders; a pal blue back and black cap intrigued me. Because I had borrowed a Golden Guide from the library, I flipped through frantically, as most beginners do. There it was, plain as day, on page seventy-seven. In pure excitement, I felt a strong urge to scream, but somehow held it back. I immediately became attached to the bird and the guide, and didn't want to give it back. Reluctantly, I did. For years, I searched for it. One day, at the library bookstore, I made a beeline for the birding section. And there it was, a Golden Guide to the Birds of North America. Although it was from 1939 and I don't use it ever, I still keep it. Then, last week, me and my family drove to Half-price Books, a place that rips you off when you sell your books to them. I found the science section, and at eye level, there it was (again), except this was a 2001 copy! I was extremely happy when we took it home.

"I wonder what mine will be..."

It could be anything. A Hooded Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Great Egret, or a small bird, such as the American Robin. Roger Tory Peterson's description was on the ball: "The one bird that everybody knows." What will it be?

-Mr. Bird

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