Hawkeye drove so that I could ride shotgun, camera in hand, telephoto in place, ready to shoot any bird that crossed our path. Snowfeather and Mimic sat in the backseat, peering out their respective car windows, wide-eyed and ever alert to the slightest bird-like movement. As we passed the neighborhood mailbox I heard a shout from behind. “A cardinal!” I think the intent was to shout but the delivery was poor.
Snowfeather’s ‘shouts’ register as whispers on a decibel meter so unfortunately for us nobody heard, or at the least fully understood her words until we had passed that little bird by.
No worries though, cardinals are fairly common and we were certain we’d see another soon enough.
We’ve learned to bird wherever we are. So when we needed to visit the nearby Wal-Mart to supplement Mimic’s winter gear with gloves, it wasn’t a problem. It was another opportunity!
As we pulled around the back entrance, Hawkeye shouted, “bird!” and promptly hit the brakes. The usual “Where? What was it? Which way did it go?” questions flew out as she circled the car back around and parked next to the curb. All eyes darted about the wooded landscape behind the store. “Is it a female cardinal?” Hawkeye asked.
“I don’t believe it!” Mimic said gleefully. “It’s a Black-crested Titmouse!”
I didn’t believe it either. I wasn’t sure what ‘it’ was, but it sounded rare and I knew I’d need a picture to prove we spotted it. I fumbled about for a minute or two. New cameras need some braking in.
“It’s right there.” Fumble, fumble.
“It’s on that tree.” Fumble.
“The small one, next to the bigger one.” Fumble, fumble, fumble.
Fingers pointed in the general direction of a grove of small trees. Some had a few leaves barely hanging on. There was a plastic bag stuck on a branch, but nothing that looked like a bird.
In the end, my three fellow birders saw it, identified it and counted it. I didn’t. And that was the second bird that got away. The next was soon to follow.
Mimic turned to me in the checkout line, “Did you see that House Sparrow?”
“Where outside, before we came in?”
“No, back there. Up high in those big-beam-things, above the fish and bird-seed-area.”
“That sounds like the ideal spot for a bird. You sure it wasn’t a Store Sparrow though?”
“Pretty sure,” Mimic replied, “since there’s no such thing as store sparrows.” He smiled, I smiled back. It was a proud father and ‘chip of the old block’ son moment.
Soon it was time for lunch. When we pulled into the parking lot of our favorite Thai restaurant, Hawkeye shouted, “bird!” (There’s a reason she’s called ‘Hawkeye’. She’s got eyes like a hawk.) I looked around feverishly not wanting to miss another. “In the bush next to the rail on that landing above the stairs. See it?” – I saw it!
As a group we had seen, four birds, three species and countless pairs of gloves. This however was the first bird I had seen and identified since leaving the house. There in the shadow of shopping center shrubbery was a little brown House Sparrow. “I think he’s following us.”