Spark Bird.

My Dad, George, is 90 and has moderate dementia. He can hold a good conversation for a few minutes, making puns and funny little comments, but once a topic changes, he doesn’t remember anything that was said about the previous topic. You can end up having the same chat with him many times a day because he doesn’t remember that he already asked you about what you’ve been up to, or what’s planned for dinner. But what he does remember is that a bird changed his life.

He was a 13-year-old Boy Scout working on a bird watching badge. He and a couple of other scouts headed out to the woods in May, and at first they just wanted to get the right number of observations to fulfill their badge requirement. They were goal-oriented. But then—then! He got a good look at a male Hooded Warbler. Such a startlingly handsome bird!

“After that, I went out to look at birds often. I was hooked!” Dad likes to tell me. He continued birding for decades with such enthusiasm that his two daughters are also passionate about birds, and deeply involved now in education about birds and their needs. Various friends through the years have also become thrilled with birding through our family. These days, with Dad’s memory failing him, he loves to hear stories about amazing, goofy, and surprising birding adventures we’ve had through the years.

And it all started with a Hooded Warbler. That warbler’s legacy was, hopefully, many offspring—AND, definitely, a 13-year-old whose newfound joy in birding was infectious. Dad’s joy in seeing that bird is with him to this day. That joy is outlasting many other memories, proving itself stronger than his dementia. That Hooded Warbler is still a spark inside my father’s mind.

Christine M. Du Bois, Coordinator of the Lansdowne Bird Town and editor of Bird Beat

Hooded Warbler, by Ninahale, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0