Charlie Anson peered through scratched binoculars at the small bird flitting through the cattails. Song sparrow? He couldn’t see the telltale black spot on the breast. He shook his head. It was another LBJ—little brown job—to birdwatchers who can’t identify what they are seeing. The bird hopped away in the thick foliage lining the park’s nature trail before he could pull out his field guide and look at photographs.
His 11-year-old Leica binoculars lacked the light-capturing capability of glasses with more modern optics. Buy new ones? Not with his 401K down and politicians in Washington feuding over whether or not to take away his health care. Anson sighed and gave up on the bird, just one more mystery in a lifetime of frustrating sightings.
Late summer heat lay on the park like a suffocating hand. The hills, green only months ago, had been seared brown and yellow. Ponds shrank. Only a few determined walkers kicked up dust on the trails. Picnickers sheltered in the shade of trees. He stopped briefly to view a gathering of the usual suspects, a few stilts, avocets, and yellow legs that shared a small spit of land with mallard ducks.