My other bird book takes a more descriptive turn: “Song a bubbling, jangling, rising warble with short notes on wide pitch range.” This sounds accurate now that I’ve actually heard the bobolink’s song, but it wouldn’t help me identify the bird in the wild.
For that I need my birding-and-botanizing buddy, whose new hybrid car proves a real boon for birding in the hinterlands. We crept along a country road on the edge of The Wilds, her silent car allowing us to sneak up without startling shy birds. In addition to seeing my first bobolink (and then my second, third, and fourth), we stalked grasshopper sparrows, Henslow’s sparrows, and a solitary Savannah sparrow plus meadowlarks, horned larks, common yellowthroats, kingbirds, killdeer, and whatever kind of flycatcher says something like “leap year!” I spotted an orchard oriole and a pair of ospreys, and later at a rest stop we saw an owl.
Barn swallows know when an owl is not an owl, but now that I look at my photos, I can't always distinguish between the grasshopper sparrows and Henslow's sparrows, and the bobolinks look like mud spots on the lens. You'd know them if you heard them. They sound like nothing so much as bobolinks, and once you've heard them, they can't possibly be anything else.