"Spark Bird: Canada Goose"
5 x 7 inches
India ink on Bristol board
“So, what was your spark bird?”
If you hang around birdwatchers enough, it's a question that comes up.
Just like any passion, birding has its fair share of insider jargon. Words like, “dip”, “pish” and “fallout” are overheard at many events. As is the term, “spark bird”, which refers to the bird that first kindled a life-long interest in this fanatical obsession – er, I mean hobby.
I've loved birds as long as I can remember, but perhaps the species that sparked an interest in understanding them more deeply was the Canada Goose.
As a girl, I'd go to the park to feed a population of domestic ducks, but there'd always be a group of itinerant Canada geese, as well. They always looked so dapper, with their black necks and white cheeks. As I got to know them better, I began to notice that some of them had individual characteristics that set them apart from the others. Why was it, I wondered, that some of them had shorter, stubbier bills? Why did others have a white stripe at the base of their neck? Why did some of them honk in a much higher pitch, like they'd inhaled helium?
Since this was before the Internet, I had to go to the library to find out. These smaller geese, I learned, were a subspecies of Canada goose, known as cackling geese. That someone else had noticed these slight differences was exciting to me; and so began a lifelong interest in bird identification and behavior.
Nowadays, the Canada goose and cackling goose are considered two genetically distinct species; nevertheless I consider them both my “spark”.