It was not a good day for birds, I decided. The trees swayed in a brisk spring breeze, and gray clouds scurried overhead. The birds were probably hunkered down. My brothers, ages thirteen and six, were begging me to go warbler hunting with them. But I knew all too well that warbler hunting with brothers usually ended in the warbler flying away before I could identify it. It was Sunday afternoon, and I felt lazy. Warbler migration was in full swing, but I had been finding enough to satisfy my birding itch. So Jordan and Javin set off by themselves, and I settled down with a book.
About an hour later, Jordan burst into the living room, red-faced and excited. “Lexa!” he panted. “Come look at this bird! It’s bright yellow, and the throat is all black.”
I sat up. “Was the black V-shaped? Was there yellow below the black? I saw a Black-throated Green Warbler earlier this week.”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “But come look at it!”
This sounded exciting enough to rouse me. “Do you have the binoculars?” I asked as I tossed aside my book and collected field guide, jacket, and boots.
“Yes, Javin has them,” he replied. “Quick! I saw it at the edge of the woods, and then it flew farther in.”
We hurried outside, collected Javin and the binoculars, and carefully made our way to the woods. “Now you need to move slowly and be quiet,” I instructed. “Moving fast will scare the birds.”
The boys nodded. “See,” Jordan whispered, pointing, “it was hopping around right up there.”
We studied the waving branches of the cherry tree, but no black and yellow mite appeared to thrill us.
“Well, it’s not up there,” I whispered. “Slow down!” I cautioned an impatient brother as we continued toward the woods.
“Here, give the binocs,” whispered Jordan. “I see something over there.”
I handed him the binoculars, and he headed off along the edge of the woods. I flopped down in the grass beside Javin, who was paging through my Peterson’s Bird Guide. Why, it was actually very pleasant out here. The breeze was warmer than it had looked. The sun shone brightly as the clouds rolled away. I leaned back to drink in the vibrant green of lush grass and unfolding leaves, and watched a pair of Carolinas in the brush beside us.
Suddenly a small bird of dusky gold dropped down to eye level. “A Yellow Warbler!” I gasped.
“Where?” Javin looked up, but he was too late.
I sat up and looked around. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad time for birding after all. Jordan was ambling back down the tree line, his search apparently fruitless. I turned my gaze back to the treetops just as a small striped bird hopped down to a limb barely seven feet above me. Another warbler! I leaned forward and studied it intently. Two white wing bars, gray and white stripes along the back, clear breast, dark chin strap…
“Here, Javin, I want to look at something!” I hissed, snatching the bird book. The mystery bird fluttered about, unperturbed, as I flipped through pages of warblers. Black and White Warbler? No chin strap. Blackpoll Warbler? No chin strap there either. Black-throated Gray? This bird’s throat was white, not black. I watched the busy little bird a bit longer, then scanned the pages again. Cerulean Warbler? Chin strap, wing bars, solid head, striped back—yes! I was looking at a male Cerulean Warbler! I gazed in delight as it flitted along the branches, oblivious to onlookers.
“Look, Javin!” I whispered, pointing. “It’s a Cerulean Warbler! See it? Right up there?”
Though my six-year-old brother probably didn’t know what was so amazing about a little striped bird, he had heard my enthusiastic warbler chatter all last week, and this was a warbler, so it must be something to get excited about!
“Oh, yes!” he said softly. My brother does love nature, and this cute little bird was so close to us. We watched in admiration until Jordan strode up and Mr. Cerulean flew away.
“We were watching a Cerulean Warbler!” I exclaimed, pointing. “It was right up there!”
“Wow, that was close!” exclaimed Jordan. He handed me the binoculars. “I couldn’t find anything.”
I jumped up. It seemed the birds were out and about despite my predictions.
“Stay up here,” I instructed the boys. “I’m going to look for more warblers.”
I had scarcely started down the trail when a clear whistled song caught my attention. I stopped and peered through the lacy, new oak leaves. A flash of brilliant orange…a Baltimore Oriole! I stared in wonder at the beautiful bird whistling and warbling through the treetops.
“Javin!” I called softly, retreating up the trail. “Javin, come look! A Baltimore Oriole!” Javin knew what an oriole was—he had seen them eating grape jelly on our grandpa’s deck. But our small property was full of people and animals, and we seldom saw these shy, lovely birds. Javin came scampering down the trail.
“See?” I whispered excitedly, pointing to the treetops. “Right up there! See it?”
“Yes!” he exclaimed, his eyes lighting up. It was too bad Jordan had wandered away. An oriole sighting on our property was rare.
We watched as it sang its way along the branches, a bundle of orange feathers and neat black markings outlined against the vivid blue sky.
Javin kept on watching as I meandered farther down the trail. A good day for birds! I chuckled to myself. Thanks to Jordan for digging me out of my book, yes, it was a good day!