Although my friends would probably beg to differ with me, I am not a birder. Oh, I obsess over the hummingbirds in my yard, that is true. I am occasionally privileged to rescue a hawk or owl for the California Foundation for Birds of Prey. My primary reason for ever going out onto Lake Shasta with my brother is to spot bald eagles, not catch rainbow trout. My annual visits to Port Aransas, Texas revolve around the opportunity to photograph great blue herons, great white egrets, roseate spoonbills, ibis, brown pelicans, and terns. And, much to the consternation of some of my friends, my favorite birds are the ultra-intelligent western scrub jays and yellow-billed magpies. I think of “birders” as little old men in khaki vests with spotting scopes stalking some innocuous small brown species of wren or finch. I’ve rescued my share of those little creatures, to be sure, but really…that certainly isn’t me…is it?
The other day while waiting for the Amgen Tour of California riders to reach the rural corner where I was stationed, I wandered down the road a bit and espied a bird I didn’t know. I wondered what it was. Uh oh, does that mean I’m becoming a birder? Do I have to know the species of every bird I encounter? This bird was fairly innocuous, robin-sized, brownish, with a yellow belly and a gray head. How dull could it be? Pretty dull, I think, but I liked the composition of the dry grass and barbed wire fence. The problem with this shot is that the poor bird appears to be impaled by a twig; the bane of portrait photographers. Now I have to worry about this with the birds I photograph.
If anybody cares, my Sibley’s Guide to Birds (one of about a dozen bird books I own…12 bird books, really? oh no!) identified this bird as a western kingbird. I’d never seen one before. I guess I better add it to my life list!