TEXTING WITH MY DAUGHTER TO IDENTIFY A HERMIT THRUSH
Bird half conscious on the deck,
Hit a window. Broke its neck?
No! It moves and stands alone.
I take a photo with my phone,
Send it to my daughter Emily.
She’s the birder in the family.
Hi, sweetie, think it’s Sparrow?
“No, Mom, beak’s too narrow.”
Pipit has a narrow bill.
“But it has a slimmer build.”
I see brown spots on its neck.
“Cannot tell from your pic.”
Warbler, Finch, Nuthatch, Thrasher?
Junco, Creeper, Chat, Gnatcatcher?
So many bird names I could blurt,
But she must get back to work.
After many guesses offered glibly,
I go consult the book of Sibley.
Not one to fret about proper names for each plant and animal I see, I nonetheless find that it helps me pay attention to details when I use The Sibley Book of Birds or some other resource as I try to identify something. Puzzling it out can be gratifying. It also helps me develop new habits. Novelist Harold Brodkey wrote in his memoir, “At one time I was interested in bird watching, and I noticed that when I saw a bird for the first time I couldn’t really see it, because I had no formal arrangement, no sense of pattern for it. I couldn’t remember it clearly, either. But once I identified the bird, the drawings in bird books and my own sense of order arranged the image and made it clearer to me, and I never forgot it.”
I was glad to discuss this bird with my daughter, even in the limited way of texting on a cell phone, so I could learn about it. I was gladder still when it recovered enough to rustle its feathers and fly away. I will remember the thrush and its brief visit.
Thrush song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9vHS6JdHog