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.