Feb 11 2008
People often ask me why I’m interested in birds.
My husband insists it was meant to be after I had a part in a French play at the age of six. My costume was blue from head to toe and I had one line: “Je suis un oiseau bleu.” “I am a bluebird.”
But really, it’s because they fly. They’re beautiful, and they fly, and they fly beautifully. This rules out insects – but I never did like bugs.
I remember the first bird that fascinated me: the common nighthawk. When I was in grade school we lived in Mt. Lebanon, a suburb of Pittsburgh, near an apartment building with a gravel roof. Every summer I sat on our front steps and watched the nighthawks’ courtship, the flapping flight, the peenting, dive and boom.
When I was twelve we moved to an area that had recently been a farm. I spent my first summer there walking the remnant woods in the creek bottom. One day I literally came face to face with a red-eyed, olive-green bird. At home I searched my field guide. It was a red-eyed vireo.
Over the years I’ve gotten better at identifying birds. Each spring, after my ears get back in tune, I can identify many of them by voice.
True confessions of a birder: I can’t be at an outdoor party without silently identifying all the birds nearby. I keep this ability under wraps (imagine not paying attention at an outdoor wedding!) but it is practically impossible for me not to see and hear them.
I love the flash of wings. The red-eyed vireo looked me in the eye and I’ve been looking back ever since.
That’s me on an outing to Conneaut Marsh, photo by Z Taylor.