I'm on a routine outing to a place I've been to countless times - the overlook bench on Nimitz Way. About a mile in from the parking area at Inspiration Point, it's always worth a stop and short breather to take in the expansive beauty of the Berkeley Hills and beyond to Mount Diablo and Rocky Ridge. I commonly see Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, Juncos, Chestnut-backed Chickadees, House Finches, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Spotted Towhees, Golden-crowned Sparrows, and Blue Jays spilling over into abutting EBMUD watershed lands. I've also seen one California Quail, one American Kestrel, three Tree Swallows, one California Thrasher, and the occasional Townsend Warbler. A relatively busy thoroughfare for thousands of hikers, strollers and group outings, the bench area is not an ideal locale to hope to see anything too, too exotic. But today, flying into my life, is my very first Hermit Warbler! Although at the moment I have no idea I'm looking at a Hermit Warbler. I just know the flighty little bird is one beautiful little bird I've never laid eyes on before. And I'm excited as a little boy in a magic shop.
At first I suspect it's another Wilson's Warbler, the precious, tiny, black-pated, brilliant yellow bird making the rounds this time of year in the park's forested and riparian areas along Wildcat Creek. I'm surprised when one flies onto a branch, since I've never seen one here. I'm afforded a good look and recognize him and his high-pitched CHIT CHIT CHIT instantly, before he disappears into thick vegetation. Moments later - maybe they're in concert - I espy subtle movement in higher branches and zoom in quickly before it's too late. Luckily, for a few jubilant seconds, I'm privy to witness the pretty bird's striking black-throat and all yellow head, but I manage only a poor shot of him looking up from behind. Perhaps an expert bird IDer could peg it from this, but the rest of you will just have to trust me that I saw who I saw, in the accompanying photo.
A fortuitous moment with a very elusive, never before spotted bird. The feeling can't be explained. Maybe like hitting a thousand dollar scratcher or something. Deemed "common" (but shy) by Wikipedia standards, around these parts a Hermit Warbler is considered a "rare" visitor, so I'm marking this one down on my slowly expanding Life List as a confirmed new sighting, my first since the Black-throated Gray Warbler spotted in Sibley Park a few months ago.
Top photo of Hermit Warbler: By http://www.flickr.com/photos/37699157@N00 [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons