A few birds have left marks on me. Seeing them for the first time was so compelling, I can never forget the sight. My dad had a bird feeder near our back door. It was usually populated with Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, Sparrows, Grackles and an assortment of other daily visitors. One day a rainbow arrived.
Some years later, I was riding my bike past a pond (which today is fenced in and sits between a six lane road and a warehouse). A large, white bird was on the edge of the water, which is a common sight in Florida. Then I got a good look and it stopped me. A huge, dark gray, featherless head. This was before it was speculated that birds were descendants of dinosaurs, but I thought a dinosaur had just appeared. I investigated and figured out I’d encountered a Wood Stork, which was then on the endangered species list. Fortunately, these storks are making a good recovery, and are off the endangered list and hopefully soon off the threatened species list.
I went to the Everglades for the first time in high school. My parents and I camped in Flamingo which is at the southern tip of mainland Florida. At sunset, flocks of Roseate Spoonbills flew overhead ablaze in the evening light to their rookeries in the mangrove islands. Seeing their pink wings is still a thrill.
And then there are new acquaintances to make. As I was trying to photograph this quick fellow, a nearby birder identified it as a Blue-headed Vireo, a new bird on my life list.
And there are old, familiar friends. This Mockingbird was singing to announce the new morning as the wind ruffled its feathers.
When I was five, a couple newly hatched mockingbirds fell out of their nest, and we fed and raised them. I named them Tweety and Limpy, because one had a gimpy leg. I taught them to fly by perching them on my finger and lowering it so they’d flap their wings. Though they eventually took off on their own, they would come by to visit. We’d leave our backdoor open, and while other birds were content to stay at the feeder, Tweety would fly in the house to get the raisins or nuts we’d leave on the counter for him.