After a pitiable lunch, I was strolling the kilometer back to my office eyes firmly affixed to my Kindle and a particularly stirring passage of Moby Dick when my port ear discerned an unusual tweet off to the left. I say my port ear alone, as my starboard ear, turned roadside as it was, registered nothing but the continual passage of trucks that mark the unceasing soundtrack of modern Chinese urban life.
But I was raised well.
And that solitary, unusual note, finding safe harbor as it did in only one aural manifold, was enough to instantly tear my mind fully away from the digital Alexandria in my hands and focus all of my senses in pursuit of identifying the feathered author.
To my left lay the road shoulder, a line of low, dehydrated shrubbery, a chain link fence, and a copse of scraggly pines doing their best to grow amongst the sandy, polluted soil. Somewhere in that copse perched my friend.
With patience I paused to more easily discern any movement, but none appeared. The occasional tweet continued, however. With measured steps I ever so slowly approached the fence, but still could not spot the shy avian minstrel only meters in front of me.
And so I waited, with face pressed firmly into the chain link, staring straight ahead into the copse of low, scraggly pines, for my friend to reveal himself.
(mind you small groups of my coworkers are continuously passing by on the sidewalk only a few meters behind me all the while your brave author stands statue-still with his face jammed into a fence)
He did appear in time, and I added a new species to my life list – the Hawfinch, aka Coccothraustes coccothraustes.
I did not have a field guide at hand (nor optics, for that matter, other than those which Nature saw fit to issue me), but remembering the key features for identification later that day was easy enough.
This fellow goes down as a migrant for Shenyang.
And I was lucky to see him, as they’re generally only found in pine and berry-laden trees, of which there are none in my regular birding haunts. Not bad for a 10 minute stroll after lunch!