No, I don’t know the Latin names of many birds, but it seems fitting to use one here to pay tribute to the showman I saw 3 days ago on an impromptu extension of the normal ‘river walk.’ Already I’d seen a very intentional willet stalking the mud flats near the tidal river, and then way up in the treetops I’d caught the first-of-the-season glimpse of that orange flash oriole doing his aerial dance. “You are back!” I thought as I watched, assuming (falsely, as it turned out), that he would be Bird of the Day.
But no way was Nature having her final say with him today. Quite surprisingly I agreed to the dog’s request to cross the road and amble a short while through the woods. And there, 25 yards back from where the tiniest watercourse (if it can even be called that) intersects the path, up in a left-side gap, a brilliant red splash sat calmly, in full view, showing me his black wing and beautiful self.
I froze in place and said the first and only thing that came to mind: “Vermillion Flycatcher!” However, this NOT being Arizona, I fell into a stunned silence of waiting for the right word to come. But since nothing did, I stood still, admired, and tracked him back to a nearby canopy and returned home to dive into Sibley’s.[i]
First I checked on my old Arizona friend, and of course then proceeded to Mr Piranga, aka, you guessed it: the Scarlet Tanager. He’d posed for me in all his splendor, giving me that dash of beyond-red to carry with me through the laundry, vacuuming (is your dog still shedding?), poison ivy pulling, grocery running, skypes with family and all the rest of the duties of the day….I’d been away to my Indiana home for a long weekend, and there were things to do out here in my coastal home.
Thank you, tanager, and thank you, spring day. You are both elusive, but what you show us, when we are fortunate enough to see, burns into our minds the promise of warmth and the presence of joy.
[i] Sibley, David A. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf, 2000.