Stopping Time: The Story of a Parula and a Cherry Tree

Northern Parula

This Northern Parula was hanging off of a branch in search of it’s next meal.


“Experiences are much more valuable than things. Things break. We get tired of playing with them. Experiences though, are a part of us forever. Long after returning home from an adventure, we continue to share stories and photos of our travels with friends and family, while looking forward to the next great experience!” – Kevin Loughlin

One of the greatest things about being a birder isn’t even the birds themselves. It’s the people! On many levels, I think this is why I felt that I “fit” so well into this community. Birders are, by and large, an incredibly caring and welcoming group of people. I’m always prideful when noting that for every life bird I have, I can tie a person and experience to it.



It was 2014. Spring was quickly changing the natural landscape in northwest Ohio. I had not been a birder for long, but I knew at the time that I wanted to become “someone” in the community. The welcome I had received was more impactful than I ever could have believed possible when I first began, and I longed to find a way to make a name for myself. For the first time in my life, I had a passion for something worth building on.

The Biggest Week in American Birding was off to a strong start. As my Father and I arrived at Magee Marsh on the first day of the festival, it was quite apparent that the swamp was teeming with birds and activity! As we parked and prepared to enter the west end of the boardwalk, my mind was in overdrive.

Entering the boardwalk, the birdsong started to become clearer and more distinct. Birds were hopping restlessly through the canopy, taking full advantage of a smorgasbord of insects and caterpillars scattered throughout the leaves. My camera was up, and my excitement was high. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than springtime in Magee Marsh for a birder!

I slowly made my way down the boardwalk, making photographs and soaking in the excitement of the day with friends from near and far. While walking in the big loop, I came to a familiar Cherry Tree. This remains the only Cherry Tree along the entirety of the boardwalk, and it’s a popular location for photographers to capture images of the amazing variety of birds that search its flowers for food.


Northern Parula perching on branch

This Northern Parula seems to be calm and contemplative, but he’s actually eyeing the next branch he’ll perch on.


I could hear the buzzy, trill song of a Northern Parula coming from the tree, and quickly became excited at the prospect of photographing a Parula in that setting. I was greeted by Kevin Loughlin, an acquaintance at the time, who was already photographing the bird. This was the closest by far that I had ever been to a Northern Parula. The vivid blues, yellows, and greens stood in striking contrast to the white flowers of the Cherry Tree. I was awestruck by the beauty of it all, much to Kevin’s amusement, I think. I now get that same feeling when helping new birders locate and photograph birds.

Kevin and I ended up standing there and talking for over an hour as we photographed the Northern Parula, as well as a few other birds that meandered into the tree. I listened intently as he gave me tips on bird photography, and spoke about his recent jaunts to foreign destinations. I certainly learned a lot from that experience, though I wouldn’t understand the significance of the moment until two and a half years later.


Northern Parula looking at me.

A Northern Parula nervously looking at Kevin and I, before going back to feeding on the bugs in the Cherry Tree.


Fast forward to 2016. Birding and photography had become centerpieces of my life. I had spent thousands of hours addictively honing my craft, and was beginning to plot the next steps on my path to some sort of career in the field. The American Birding Expo was being held in my hometown of Columbus Ohio, and I was overjoyed that I’d be able to see my friends more than once that year. Early on the first day, I saw Kevin and said hello. While busy setting up the Wildside Nature Tours booth, he mentioned that he wanted to meet up later and chat about something. I was intrigued!

Later on Saturday evening at the expo social event, Kevin and I caught up on the happenings of life, and he asked if I would be interested in writing a blog for Wildside. I remember at the time being both thrilled and terrified. Who would want to read my writing? Was it good enough for people to read at all? Nevertheless, I immediately accepted.

This brings us to the present. Less than a year later, I feel I am finally hitting my stride. I count myself fortunate to have this platform to write on. To have the ability to write in the interest of the wildlife and people I love. It also brings us to the central message of this blog post.


Northern Parula hanging from a branch.

Northern Parula, exhibiting classic warbler behavior, hanging upside down in search of food.


Moments and experiences matter. I often liken life to painting. As we journey through life, our paintings take shape. Moments and experiences are the brush strokes that bring our paintings to life. As we learn and grow, we paint with more precision. It isn’t until the end that we get to unveil our masterpiece.

I want to encourage all of you today to give more thought to those moments and experiences that have led you here, as I was encouraged to, not long ago. How did you come to be here, reading this blog? How did you come to love birds, or other wildlife? How can we become a positive influence in other people’s lives and paintings?

I endeavor to do this through my words and photographs, all because of a Northern Parula, in a Cherry Tree! Our mutual love of birds and nature binds us together in a special way. We are losing ground in the fight to protect our wildlife and wild places in current times, but I don’t believe this is a reason to be disheartened. We can accomplish much on a unified front. We’re better together!


Northern Parula singing

This Northern Parula was taking a quick break to sing a quick song before moving on.


As always folks, thank you for taking the time to read my weekly musings. I love hearing from anyone and everyone that reads my work. Let’s start a conversation! Please feel free to share, comment, and contact me on whichever medium you prefer. I’d love to chat! Next week, I’ll be taking a break from this series, and getting back to talking about wildlife, nature, and some exciting happenings coming up for myself and Wildside. Have a wonderful week everyone!



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