Birding without a camera means I don't have any photos of the birds I saw, so let's put them into words while the memory is still fresh:
1. A prothonotary warbler, my first, perched on a branch low in a willow alongside a quiet backwater at the lily-clogged edge of a lake, the brilliant yellow and gray bird bobbing down to the lilies and back up to the willow branch over and over, giving us a warbler show without making us crane our necks toward the treetops.
A cerulean warbler, also my first, singing its distinctive song deep
within the dense tree canopy so that all the bird experts present know
just what they're hearing without being able to catch a glimpse until
finally, just for a moment, he shows himself, a flash of blue and white
on a branch, and then flies off.
3. A hermit thrush building a nest in a thicket of ferns atop a boulder deep in the woods at Conkle's Hollow, popping out on a nearby branch before flying off to forage for nesting material and then returning with a beak full of twigs.
4. A prairie warbler sitting on the third branch up the trunk of a dead pine and singing its heart out--and best of all, being the first to spot him, despite being the least experienced birder in the group.
And what about the indigo buntings, yellow warblers, and yellow-breasted chat? And the solitary cedar waxwing sharing the branch of a dead tree with a pushy brown-headed cowbird? And the great blue herons, blue-grey gnatcatcher, and northern parula? They sang my sorrows away today, taking me to a green world where nothing much matters except a burst of song and a flash of color high in the treetops.