Saturday, May 31, 2014


Have you ever noticed that, once you’ve become aware of a new thing or phenomenon, you are more likely to encounter it? Case in point: some friends of ours recently bought a Ford Escape. Now I see the SUV everywhere whereas a few months ago I noticed none. Psychologists probably have a name for this tendency to notice things that have meaning for us, but I call it RIB, short for Recently Introduced Bird.

I concocted this moniker based on our experience with the yellow-breasted chat. Rex and I have much to learn about birds, but even so we should have identified this large, common warbler long ago. During the summer it resides in almost every state, including Texas and Kansas. And yet it was only this month, on an organized bird walk in Capitol Reef, that we learned about the secretive chat. On Thursday, we found the bird again--this time along the North Fork of the Virgin River here in Zion National Park, not far from the lodge.

For your information, three characteristics set the chat apart: 1) an amazingly bright, almost iridescent yellow breast; 2) very loud and varied vocalizations and 3) elusiveness. Chats almost always move about in dense vegetation at water's edge. Several times on Thursday we could not have been more than 10 feet away from the noisy bird, but we could only find it in our glasses when it was 20 yards or more away. Almost as if it was teasing us, the bird seemed to throw its voice within the brush. That's just anthropomorphism, of course. In reality, there were probably several chats in the vicinity who were much more preoccupied with each other than with us.

In spite of the bird’s stealthy tendencies, it does sometimes sit high on a perch to sing. In both instances when we have seen the bird, we first recognized its sound then waited as its call moved around within the thick willows. After about ten minutes—perhaps because the birds no longer were concerned for their safety—a chat took up a very visible positions and loudly announced its presence. The bird (or birds?) continued to move to different promontories and allowed us excellent views--so good we could see the bird's throat protrude with each vocalization. You can see see the same thing in this short video.

If you did not already know about chats, now you might have a case of RIB, too. Good luck!

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