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Something Just Went "CLICK"

What got you interested in birds? For a lot of people it was a parent or grandparent who fed birds, or a great Aunt who used to point out the birds on a walk around the neighborhood. For me, it was one bird.

No matter how many Prairie Warblers I see, each one puts me back on that roadside in North Carolina on an early June morning looking at this golden bird sitting in the top of a small pine tree. I said to my friend John, “That is the most beautiful bird I have ever seen, where has it been all of my life?” That was the bird and that was the moment.

I had always loved wildlife but had never really been a bird person. As a young boy I thought I wanted to be the next Jacque Cousteau.

When I entered wildlife school, I chose the fisheries emphasis. It wasn’t until that June morning that things really changed for me. John Hammond and I were doing a walking quail survey and we had stopped at a listening station by a young stand of pines. We heard a Prairie Warbler singing its “helicopter taking off “ song so I got my binoculars on him. The morning light seemed to illuminate the bold black stripes on the face and sides of this bright yellow bird. I’ve always said something went “click”. I guess that’s how it is with love.

Memories have to be one of the greatest gifts that birding gives me. I was recently updating my life list and it started me, as it always does, on a trip down memory lane. The “memory” that is conjured isn’t always about the bird, more often it is the setting or people or even the weather that was memorable. I will now forever associate Rosy Finches with the taste of a Green Chili Cheeseburger. Any grouse will now have to be called a “sprouse” at least once while discussing it. And, a Zone-tailed Hawk will be associated with a group of friends high-fiving and hugging after an incredibly exciting sighting at one of the most scenic places in America.

Do you have a “click” moment? A favorite bird memory? We would love to hear about it. Drop me an e-mail or letter and we will try to get into a future issue of the newsletter.

By Mark McKellar

Winter 2008