Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Reacquainting, and a Reward

Sunday morning, while the sun was still low and the air still cool, I headed out for my first bird walk in several months. My only intention was to refresh myself with one of my favorite walks - a loop from Canyon Glen Park east along the Provo River - and hopefully to see some of my favorite birds in the area, including American dippers, song sparrows and black-billed magpies. What I got was far more than I expected.

I did see my familiar birds, all enjoying their regular spots. I heard western scrub-jays calling vociferously and watched their family busily foraging at a fallen log. I pished at a young song sparrow and sparked its curiosity, and I shook my head at the energetic antics of the western wood-pewee that refused to sit still for good observations. I watched a family of young American dippers plunging in and out of the river, swimming and flying simultaneously. I even smiled at the upside down foraging of the athletic black-capped chickadees.

Just over halfway through my loop, I paused near a stand of brushy berry bushes. I'd seen a silhouette I didn't recognize, something between the size of a sparrow and a robin. The initial bird I'd spotted moved deeper into the brush and out of view, but another quickly popped up just to the left, and I was able to get a crystal clear view through my binoculars - and my jaw dropped.

A gray catbird. A lifer.

This area of Utah is on the extreme western edge of the gray catbird's summer range, and they're quite rare and unexpected here. I certainly wasn't expecting it, no more than I was expecting to get a new lifer on my first bird walk in so very long. Several of the birds were foraging in those bushes, and I got very clear views of the black cap, rusty undertail coverts, gray plumage, and black eye. I couldn't ask for better views, even if they were all too brief.

I went out on that bird walk to just refresh my memory of how much I enjoy being out in the field rather than in front of a screen, and instead of just refreshed, I ended up rejuvenated, energized, and ready for more. You never do know what you'll see whenever you visit a favorite birding spot, and I can't wait to go to another of my personal favorites this coming weekend.


Idaho Birder said...

Congrats on the Gray Catbird lifer! My first Gray Catbird was last my very own neighborhood of all places. Now it turns out that they are regular breeders in my section of the Boise foothills. I love seeing them every time I do.

Melissa said...

Thanks, Idaho! I was stunned, and they're pretty unusual in our area. I can't wait to keep heading out to different spots to see what else I see!