The Bird That Started It All


Looking back, there is one specific Maine bird that started my whole fascination with birding in general.

Walking along a dirt road near Kennebago Lake, I was playing with a higher-end point and shoot camera given to me for a college graduation present. Its zoom capabilities allowed me – really for the very first time – to get a good look at birds even if they were far away. I had not yet used a pair of binoculars, so this camera was literally my lens into the avian world.

The bird that started it all was a Northern Parula (pictured above), so it’s not surprising that I instantly fell in love with it. Tiny, neoptropical migrants, parulas fly thousands of miles to breed in the forests of New England. Their chests seem aflame, gold and red contrasting with a white belly and blue back and head. White eye-arcs create dramatic facial expressions; even the inside of their gullets are bright.

When I flipped through my photos, that one stood out to me among the hundreds I took. Looking back, I think it’s a tad fuzzy, but at the time I marveled at the detailed feathers, the thin legs, the tiny feet, the curious eye.

Though I’ve deleted and/or lost many photos since the summer of 2012 when that image was taken, this one will always stay with me! It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Erika Zambello

About Erika Zambello

Erika Zambello is a writer, birder, and photographer, born and raised in Maine. She has a bachelor’s degree in Government and Anthropology from Cornell University, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from Duke University, specializing in ecosystem science and conservation. Her love of the outdoors was inspired by her childhood in Maine, and she returned for her National Geographic Young Explorer grant in 2015-2016.