Ask a birder anywhere and they’ll tell you about their spark bird. For some it can be something exciting like a hawk, owl, or eagle. For others it can be something colorful like a warbler or oriole. For still others, it could have been an ordinary feeder bird at a friends house.
A spark bird is the bird that really turns someone into a birder. It’s the gotcha moment that you remember for the rest of your birding like. Even famous birders wax eloquent about their spark birds in their books and articles.
So how come I can’t recall a spark bird? I didn’t get started into birding until I was in college. I was taking a class largely because a girl I was really into was taking the class. It also filled a science elective so I was OK. The prof let you get extra credit if you went birding with him early on Sunday morning. 7:30 AM early. For a college student, that was torture. You know you are in a college town when the local restaurants offer their breakfast specials until 2:00.
The girl suggested we go birding. I spent several weeks earning extra credit using a loaner pair of binoculars. 20 years later, the girl is long gone but the birding remains.
I remember the girls name was Heather. I cannot remember the name of the prof. And I cannot remember a spark bird. I remember really enjoying the time outside, the thrill of the hunt, and using the field guide to sort out new identifications. I also remember the feeling that coursework and science can have real world applications which help me to put my studies in perspective.
So am I missing something by not having a spark bird? I don’t think so. Instead of having a spark to light the birding fire, I prefer to think of myself as a case of spontaneous human combustion.