Brighten your day with a little luck | WHIDBEY BIRDING

In my last column I tossed out the invitation for readers to nominate favorite “good luck” birds. I was hoping for suggestions that raise our spirits, put a smile on our faces when we see or hear them and might even be a sighting so special it has turned us into a bird watcher.

A male Rufous Hummingbird pauses long enough for a photo.

In my last column I tossed out the invitation for readers to nominate favorite “good luck” birds. I was hoping for suggestions that raise our spirits, put a smile on our faces when we see or hear them and might even be a sighting so special it has turned us into a bird watcher.

I was delighted with your response. Clearly we now need categories since I received nominations for best songster, best year-round bird, most anticipated spring migrant, most majestic bird as well as birds that just plain brighten our days.

Winner of “The Voice” category on South Whidbey was a shy, brownish bird with perfect pitch, the Swainson’s thrush. You may not have actually seen this bird but if you’ve stopped to listen in wooded areas during the late spring after this migrant arrives, and caught the bird’s musical ascending trill, you likely found your spirits soaring along with the song.

For the best year-round bird, I was surprised to have the Red-winged Blackbird nominated, since it’s a rather common bird, like the robin. The musicality of its vocalizations may be suspect.

Yet, there is no denying that the bird’s song transports us to a pastoral wetland or small cattail pond like no other sound. It’s the tune of Deer Lagoon marsh or the Ewing Road ponds.

There were several nominations for the most beloved harbinger of spring. Swallows, of course, and the arrival of the migrating rufous hummingbirds. But the winner has to be the Western tanager for its spectacularly bright red head and yellow body. This bird arrives later than many migrants, doesn’t come begging at our feeders and favors tall trees. Its soft song is short and fluty and easily missed, so you’ve got do some searching.

When you catch a glimpse, pause to take in this wondrous creature. I can guarantee your soul will soften and life will seem easier. One reader described it thus: “Like all things bright and beautiful, it just makes you smile whenever you see one.”

Hands down we all agree that the bald eagle wins for most majestic bird. Most mornings as I sit with a cup of coffee looking east over Possession Sound, the first birds I see are bald eagles.

They appear way off over the water, banking in wide circles and then fly directly toward me, swooping into the tall fir tree in front of our house. The first to arrive calls loudly to its mate who follows several minutes later. I can’t think of a more magical way to begin my day.

One bird I love to see but wouldn’t have thought to nominate myself is the varied thrush. This slate blue and orange species with a black medallion around its neck spends the coldest part of the winter with us.

“It comes out when the days are drabbest and spirits are lowest, yet glimmers with crisp bright colors and promises renewal,” the nominator wrote.

Several of you agreed on the overall “good luck bird.” It’s one we can see year round, has dazzling color and is easily drawn to a feeder. It’s a bird we all learn in childhood and although small in size it has a mighty presence — the hummingbird.  One nominee wrote, “I always stop and look or listen and smile.”

Here on South Whidbey we have two species. As mentioned above, the rufous hummingbird is an early arriving migrant that spends the breeding season with us. This year the first sightings were in late February. By now, most of us with sugar water feeders already have the hummers buzzing for liquid refreshment.

The second hummingbird species stays here year-round. Yep, even during those sub-freezing days and nights, the Anna’s hummingbirds stick around. Those of us with feeders take special effort to keep fresh, unfrozen sugar water available.

If you haven’t already, I invite you to choose your own good-luck bird, either from the list above or discover your own favorite. Notice it and allow it to brighten your day. Good luck will surely follow.

Frances Wood can be reached at and Craig Johnson is at


More in Life

Annual street dance, live bands set for Saturday

Langley’s new annual dancing-in-the-street summertime tradition is back for the third year,… Continue reading

New public art debuts in Langley

Steel and glass shape pieces chosen by arts commission

Denis Zimmermann and his wife, Cheryl, run Langley’s new ramen restaurant, Ultra House, which opened in May 2018. Photo by Emily Gilbert/Whidbey News-Times.
Langley restaurant owner is recreating his childhood with new ramen house

Denis Zimmer-mann said he’s not re-inventing the wheel with his ramen restaurant… Continue reading

Shakespeare Festival plays emotional range

Female directors, perspective at the forefront

A 1941 Graham Hollywood, owned by Roy Deaver of Clinton, was chosen as Best of Show in the Cool Bayview Nights car show Saturday.
Rain doesn’t dampen the fun at Cool Bayview Nights car show

Attendees selected the mildly modified and rebuilt 1941 Graham Hollywood, owned by… Continue reading

Congolese Festival is a chance to celebrate, educate

Last event before Northwest Cultural Center relocates

Mucking about for clams

‘Digging for Dinner’ a popular Sound Water activity

Scorch is a play about gender identification showing at Outcast’s black box theater on the Island County fairgrounds June 13-17. It’s a one-person play, performed by Carmen Berkeley. Director and co-producer Ty Molbak went to middle school in Langley was was active in Whidbey Children’s Theater. Both will be seniors at Rutgers University in the fall. One scene in the play “Scorch” portrays the main character looking into mirrors and wondering what others see.
‘Scorch’ looks at first love and ‘gender fraud’

Irish play revolves around one character’s confusion

Whidbey Island Garden Tour highlights five homes

Tickets still available for Saturday event

Jordan Shelley, 18, stands outside his home in Greenbank. He recently received the Sydney S. McIntyre Jr Scholarship from Skagit Valley College to go toward his tuition at the University of Washington. Shelley will pursue his childhood dream of becoming a doctor. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group
SVC grad earns full 2-year scholarship to UW

A lot has changed since Jordan Shelley was 7 years old and… Continue reading

Expanding knowledge

Whidbey Institute adds more lodging, plans open house

Shhh…it’s a surprise party for old-timer Bill Lanning

Friends, customers invited to celebrate former owner of Bill’s Feed Tack