There is nothing like a good bird to make one feel more alive. It is like turning on that primal switch from deep within the depths, peeling back the layers of human constructs, social pressures, and the numbness that comes with spending too much time in the mind to remind us how transient and precious life is.
This morning’s bird was a Willow Flycatcher. I heard wind of its premier Gustavus debut from a fellow birder in town and went out in search of it the previous evening, but to no avail. Mr. Willow eluded birder marieke on the first attempt.
This morning dawned grey and rainy, southeast Alaska’s idea of summer. In xtratuf and old corduroy, I headed toward the Good River bridge for a second attempt, leaving my camera behind for fear of jinxing a possible viewing. As I approached the spot in my car, I rolled down the windows and slowed to a crawl, which in a Toyota Prius is relatively quiet. “Vreep!” I heard from the willows. “Fitz Pew!”
Now, having heard the wee fellow, I had two choices. Remain in the warmth of the car and head home or get out and try to get a good look at it. I chose the latter. If you flip through a field guide to birds, you will see that the flycatcher family is one that could be considered the bane of a birder. Each bird appears a shade of olive green-yellow with slight eye ring and tendency toward tail flicking. Without hearing the call or song, even the most dedicated, seasoned birder will err on the side of caution before offering a definitive id.
After a positive visual, replete with singing, tail flicking, and the fly catching behavior for which this bird family is known, I hopped back in my car, drove home, grabbed my camera, headed back, realized my camera had no battery, returned home for battery, and drove back to the Good River to attempt a more tangible recorded sighting by photograph. The attempt came at a dear price – an hour of tromping through tall grass and horsetail and over willow, soaking wet corduroy, and a good old bird chase. Mr. Willow was apparently not too keen on being captured on film for posterity. I managed a few horribly back lit photos and headed home for breakfast.
Not a bad morning, all in all.