Unexpected Beauty

Unexpected Beauty

I was walking home from work when I heard a call that I didn’t recognize in my neighbor’s yard. I had heard the same call yesterday from our yard but wasn’t able to find it in the trees – kind of like a robin, similar to a cardinal but not quite. At the risk of looking like a creep, I tried to spy the bird from the sidewalk but a flash of yellow piqued my curiosity enough for me to step closer. But the bird was singing high in the tree, just too far to get a good look.

I asked my neighbor if he minded if I came back with binocs, and he was fine with it (though uninterested in the bird once he knew what I was looking at). Between the binocs and my camera, I finally figured it out – a dicksissel, an unexpected find and a lifebird. They are uncommon east of the Appalachians, and rare in NJ – especially in spring.

He was gorgeous – a broad yellow eyebrow leading to a thick bunting-like bill (but longer), and a deep yellow breast topped with a dark black bib surrounded by white flashes on the chin and on either side of the throat. The brown plumage on the back was accented by a rusty brown, accenting the already colorful bird.

I watched him singing that distinctive song for a while, admiring his vigor and the way he chased the male house sparrows into the bushes, and in one case into the dirt. He flew from the magnolia to a fence where he perched for a short time. Things got even better as it flew practically to me and offered me even better looks from only a few feet away.

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