NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

May 6, 2013

And I always hear them singing

Outside my kitchen window this morning, pecking at the ground, is a bird about the size and color of a football speckled with black, some gray feathers underneath.

Would go unnoticed if not for a bright red strip the size of a wristwatch on the back of its neck.

Meanwhile, in the marsh across Sunset Boulevard, a blue heron and an egret seem to have moved in together.

Are they related or are they having an inter-speciel affair?

Such things I ponder on my daily walk into the Plum Island Reserve.

The beach is already closed to protect the nests of piping plovers, and so I leave it at Parking Lot One where a group of birders are taking the platform overlooking the shore with mounted cameras that do resemble cannons with or without the brand name.

They welcome me as if they assume that high-powered field glasses and “Sibley’s Manual” are tucked under my windbreaker.

Overhearing mention of long-tailed duck, cormorants and loons, red-throated and common, I stand behind 15 people on a deck not much bigger than the Screening Room stage.

A man with an Audubon jacket narrates and points as if he is indeed on stage. I wait for a pause before describing that football-sized bird. Without hesitation he calls it a northern flicker, and just as soon another birder holds open his “Sibley’s” in front of me.

No question about it, nor would any be heard as he announces the approach of a northern gannet, a seabird that “points in all four directions.” The men cheer; the women ooh and aah.

A difference in nurture or nature? I ask here in nature.

Without binoculars, I’d think it just another seagull, but the others see details. And frankly, I stew in resentment that my football bird drew no more interest than an Inn Street pigeon rather than the amazement I craved.

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