I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. ~Albert Einstein
“Who’s making all that noise?” That’s what we all asked when we were sitting outside on the back porch one evening. It was an unusual chirping (more like a ‘smacking’) up in one of our trees, so I got up and walked around a bit to see if I could get a better look at whoever it was that was making such a ruckus in backyard.
I could see lots of movement in the branches of the Ash tree in the middle of the yard, and in addition, it was also engaging in an exuberant game of Marco Polo with its mate over in Maple tree on the other side of yard. When I finally spotted the bird, I recognized his rufous coloring and proclaimed to Tripp and Kelsey that our fine-feathered visitor was either a Wood Thrush or a Brown Thrasher. But that I would need to get out my camera’s zoom lens and consult the bird book I keep in the kitchen to be sure.
Before you ask…
- Yes, I keep a copy of A Field Guide to Western Birds in my kitchen.
- Yes, I know that makes me a nerd.
- No, I do not care one bit.
Please…I know…don’t say it.
Anyway, with my camera and zoom lens I was finally able to get a few decent shots of the birds. Then, upon consulting said bird book, I discovered that Thrashers and Thrushes, although visually quite similar (in fact they are often mistaken), are in two very distinct families – Mimidae and Turdidae respectively.
But I was still having some difficulty in making a positive identification, so I did what (I am assuming) all curious backyard birdwatchers do…I asked the Google. And according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, here are the main differences between these two birds:
- A Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) is more red than brown, has two black-and-white wing bars, and has bright-yellow eyes.
- A Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) has a grayer face, shorter tail-feathers, no wing bars, and black eyes.
Armed with that information, I was finally able to positively identify my backyard guest as a Brown Thrasher.
And after a little more research, I learned that Brown Thrashers are actually related to the Northern Mockingbirds. As their family name ‘Mimidae’ (as in mimic) implies, both of these birds are exuberant singers, but the Brown Thrashers have one of the largest repertoires of any North American songbird. Fascinating right!?
Trust me when I tell you that my family did not share my enthusiasm or delight at making this little discovery. And maybe you don’t either. Maybe you don’t give two shits about backyard birds. Maybe you’re currently wondering what a loud, brown bird with yellow eyes could possibly have to do with a series on ‘Summer Magic’.
My answer to that would be…well…nothing really.
But the actual bird identification isn’t really the point here. The point is that backyard birds matter to me. And the happiness that I felt while reading about this exceptionally melodious song bird (even while my family was give me a very good-natured hard time about it) brightened my day. The thrill of discovery and learning something new made me feel very much alive. And for me, feeling alive = magic.
So yeah…sure, maybe birds aren’t your thing. But my guess is that you have something that interests you. And what I am encouraging you to do is to get curious about that. Let your mind wonder. Get carried away in the pursuit of knowledge. Allow yourself permission to geek out on whatever you love. Whether it’s backyard birds or books or cars or falling down the rabbit hole reading theories about WESTWORLD!
Actually don’t get me started on that last one…
Seriously though…here’s the thing…it has been proven that the ability to learn and grow is not limited by the age on our drivers’ licenses. The capacity for delight and wonder is not reserved for the young. No friends…I believe with my whole heart that summer magic is for all of us who stay curious and therefore stay young at heart.