A while ago, I went to Bluff Point State Park with my family. We were going for the exercise of a 4½-mile (7-km) walk down to the bluff on a beautiful wooded trail and for the enjoyment of it. I was going to keep an eye out for birds, because this park is regarded as one of the top ten bird observatory sites of my home state of Connecticut.
As we began our walk down the trail, our ears were met by the cheery songs of Yellow Warblers: “Sweet, sweet, sweet, I am so sweet!” A Downy Woodpecker called “pik, pik” as he climbed up a tree. A Common Yellowthroat called, “Witch-i-ta, witch-i-ta, witch-i-ta, wit!”
Suddenly, some bird began to sing a song which was unknown to me—several thin and wiry high notes ending with an even higher note. “Tsee, tsee, tsee, tsee, tsee, seee!” Again and again he belted out his song. I came closer, hoping to get at least one glimpse of this musician.
Unexpectedly, a small bird plopped down on a branch a few feet from my face and began to sing. “Tsee, tsee, tsee, tsee, tsee, seee!” He showed off his white waistcoat and orange face and throat. A Blackburnian Warbler!!! A life bird for my list! This fiery gem of the forest treetops had come down to sing to me, as if he had been just waiting for someone to come along that he could show off to—which he did with great enthusiasm.
“Hurry up, Violet!” called my sister far in the distance, who, with the rest of my family, did not care much for birds and disapproved of my always looking at birds and talking nonstop about them. Reluctantly, I left the Blackburnian Warbler and followed them.
We walked along for about five minutes, serenaded by Gray Catbirds, and all of a sudden I heard the ethereal spiraling notes of a Veery. My father remarked that it sounded like some digital alarm or something! Life bird number two for the day!
As we continued to walk, I heard the plaintive “pee-wee, pee-a-wee” of an Eastern Wood-Pewee. A Mourning Dove called to its mate. A Blue Jay screamed “Thief! Thief!” far in the forest. Soon I heard a thin, lisping cry coming from a bush, and there was a handsome Cedar Waxwing, who let me show him to my sister Clare before he flew away.
We came to the end of the bluff, footsore and tired but triumphant. Since it was foggy over the ocean, the view was not as spectacular as it could have been, but still the bluff had all its rugged beauty. Delicate wild roses bloomed in cracks between rocks, scrubby juniper bushes sprouted on the very edge of the precipice, and evergreen trees edged the rocky paths which led up and down the slopes.
I descended the slope and sat on a boulder at the very edge of the water and watched two Double-crested Cormorants dive and swim in the blue-gray water. One of them surfaced feet from where I was seated and gave me a good look at his orange facial skin. An egret flew by, but he was not close enough for me to ascertain whether he was a Great Egret or a Snowy Egret, either of which would have been a life bird. Oh well. But soon I heard the slow, rambling warble of a Warbling Vireo far off in a scrubby tree. Though I searched for it, I never was able to locate it. However, this was life bird number three today!
As we turned around to go back, an Eastern Towhee said cheerfully, “Drink-your-tea! Drink-tea!” as if he didn’t even notice the thick fog surrounding us. Red-winged Blackbirds called from a saltwater marsh, and gulls flew overhead. On the way back, a small gray bird flew in front of my father on the path. I would have thought it was some sort of sparrow, but then it opened its tail, revealing large yellow patches. A female American Redstart! Life bird number four today!
We halted our walk at a gap in the forest where you could go down to the beach. I saw a sea gull and slowly approached it. It did not fly away and appeared to be as curious about me as I was about it, cocking its head from side to side. I noted its large size, gray back, and pinkish feet. Believe it or not, I had never seen a Herring Gull before—at least not since I became really interested in birds. Life bird number five in two hours!
At last we reached the end of the trail. As we ate our picnic lunch, English Sparrows chirped all around us, ever hoping for a free handout. Robins hopped about on the lawn. A Song Sparrow perched on a dead snag and serenaded us with his joyful song.
Birding has its ups and it has its downs, and I know for certain that that day was one of its ups!