Sylvia birds

Sita had given us a walk with a bird expert for Christmas. It was one of those wonderful ‘experience’ presents that she is good at finding and giving. I had taken the day of to cash in our gift.  On this beautiful spring day we met Ben, our guide, at the Mass. Audubon Joppa Flats Education center, a structure that had not existed when we lived in that area.

After we exchanged our dinky little binoculars with two more serious ones borrowed from the center , we set out, first by car, to Plum Island, stopping along the way when he heard a warbler sound. Ben knows birds by their song. They are hard to see in the foliage and the flit from branch to branch so fast that it is hard to find them with our binoculars.

There were other birders looking for the warblers and they exchanged information and clues, using a language I hardly understood. I learned that the warblers exist in many sizes and colors, some weighing as little as 3 grams, less than a nickel, and others as much as 10. The colors vary by sex and age. It was hard to remember all these details, but that is why we have bird books.

The walk made me realize how much live is going on around us, invisible but audible. The bugs eat the juicy new leaves of the trees (warblers like to hang out in oaks), the birds eat the bugs and cross fertilize and we are all the better for it.

That night I dreamed of birds and my bilingual brain was searching for the Dutch name of warblers. I woke up thinking that I knew but when I looked it up I had been wrong; my sleepy brain had found the Dutch word for chickadees (koolmees) but not warblers, which turned out to be a ‘tuinfluiter’ in Dutch. Tuinfluiter means, literally,  ‘garden whistler.’  In the process of my research I discovered that the warbler belongs to the genus ‘Sylvia’ – this must be my bird.

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