Guest story by our friend and expert birder, AW.
While the four-year old (L) picked and munched on fresh beans from the garden, I noticed some birds in a dead tree. Red-eyed Vireo, a young Eastern Phoebe, and wait! Oh! A warbler? A Wilson’s? That would be cool, a first in my yard.
Me: Hey L, there’s a really cool bird in the tree; I think it’s a Wilson’s Warbler. I’m going to go set up my scope to get a good look if you want to come look at it.
L: Okay, I’ll come.
Me: This could be a Wilson’s Warbler! It would be great to see one because they just pass through Vermont when migrating. We don’t get a chance to see them often.
Meanwhile, a Belted Kingfisher flies overhead. Next, L identifies a Mourning Dove when he hears its whistle wings. I set up the scope, hone in on the bird. Very nice yellow, looks too big for a warbler, beak looks too big, not warbler-like at all. No hint of black cap on it. Tail isn’t straight, looks a little scalloped. Greenish back, dark wing….well, that looks…alright. But the yellow belly should be brighter…L climbs up the steps of the small stool to peer into the scope while I continue to hold on to it being a Wilson’s.
L: Yeah, I see it. It is yellow. It looks kinda like a Scarlet Tanager.
I go to the car and pull out the Sibley’s, KNOWING he is right!
Me: Okay, take another look and focus on the beak and the tail. Then I’ll show you the Tanager in the book and the Wilson’s Warbler and you can compare them.
L looks at the beak on the bird in the tree and the two drawings in the book. He agrees it is the beak of a Scarlet Tanager. I know the bird is too big to be a warbler. I stand corrected. Next the Phoebe flies in close to the Tanager and Levi gets to see the two birds together.
Me: Can you see the Phoebe?
L: Yeah, it’s right next to the Wilson’s.
Me: It’s not a Wilson’s, you were right when you said it was a Scarlet Tanager.
L: Is it the wife?
Me: I….think….so, but this time of year, it’s hard to tell the wife from the kid.
It is less confusing to identify a bird when you have fewer birds to sort through; that is a little save-facing, but really, I was trumped by a almost-5-year-old birder! What a joy!