Bird #7 — Ovenbird

seiurus (from seio, to shake and oura, tail) aurocapillus (from aurum, gold and capillus crown)

Saturday, May 26, 1979 — 3:15 p.m.

McNaughton, Wisconsin — Blair Lake

The day after I graduated from Moody, Sally and I drove up to my parent’s house in Northern Wisconsin. Sally and I were pretty serious by this time, although we still weren’t formally engaged.

My parents owned 27 acres of woods on two lakes, and woods stretched for many miles in every direction, punctuated only by an occasional house.

Not long after we arrived, I took Sally for a walk. We were walking through the woods on the path around nearby Blair Lake when I heard an Ovenbird singing. I knew its “teacher, teacher, teacher” song from trips I took as a kid to Lake in the Woods, Ontario with Dad. I traced the sound and spotted the bird perched on a lower branch of a poplar in mixed woods about 50 yards uphill from the lake.

To be honest, early in my birding life there were some birds that made my life list under circumstances that would not be satisfactory as I gained more experience. This is a prime example. I still didn’t have binoculars, and all I saw was a tiny bird perched on a branch singing an Ovenbird’s song. Of course, it was an Ovenbird, but I didn’t see all the field marks like I was supposed to. So … just to make things legit …

On Thursday, May 15, 1980, I saw an Ovenbird in my backyard at home. It was walking around under the bushes next to the shed. It stayed around, off and on, for two days always on the ground and I saw all the field marks many times.

But back to the Wisconsin trip. While we were up there, Paul and Barb, some friends of ours from home, showed up and spent a couple days with us. One of those days we went over to Blair Lake and started messing around on a dock that was owned by a small camp. (I knew the people who owned the camp, so if we had been caught doing what we did next, we wouldn’t have been arrested, although I can’t imagine they would have been very happy about it.) The dock floated, and just for fun we unhooked it from its moorings and paddled it around the lake. It wasn’t very streamlined, and it took us a long, long time to get it back to where we started. I mention this to explain the photograph .

That’s me with the paddle. Barb, who was pregnant at the time and taking it easy, is sitting in the chair. The woods in the background are right about where I saw the Ovenbird.

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