A dickcissel, a migratory songbird recently seen in Key West. MARK HEDDEN / Weekly Keys

Milan Kundera once wrote: “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against oblivion. This line stuck with me for a long time. Maybe because I wrote an article in college about the novel it came from – “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” – and maybe because it’s the first line of said novel.

I have trouble remembering any character details or plot points from the book, and all I can find is an image of a Czechoslovak communist leader removed from a historical photo after being fell into political disgrace. Also, looking at it, the line I quoted is not the first line of the novel, but the second line of the second chapter. Still, it stuck.

He went up the other morning to Fort Zachary Taylor. Not so much the struggle part of man against power. It was the part of the struggle of memory against forgetting. Sometimes I think about how much math I knew as a kid, how many arithmetic hoops I could jump through, and how little I took away from it.

Sometimes I think of all the birds that migrated north in the spring, and are now migrating south, and I have this overwhelming fear that I’m going to erase their identity papers, that memory will lose the upper hand to of oblivion.

It had been a long and quite stressful summer, and I hadn’t found the time to do much birding, at least not the type to walk around and see what you could find. Mostly it had been mission driven – going out to find something specific – or random – seeing something on the way to the grocery store.

And I had spent most of the previous week traveling to Alabama to pick up a dog. I felt disconnected from one of the things that brings me the most joy in life. Especially since it was migration season in one of the best places in the country to see migration in action.

Honestly, I was afraid to leave the new dog alone in the house. But it had to happen one day, so I thought I’d bird for an hour and see if the dog was in trouble.

Upon stepping into the hammock, my fears of having become a stupid bird were somewhat dispelled when the world of birds threw a softball at me – an American redstart, the little, unmistakable warbler that spins along a branch with its tail fanned out like a cancan dancer. Then there was an overbird, another small warbler, doing a Mick Jagger leg.

Up on the berm, the world grew bigger when I spotted a Nightjar Widow, a brown bird the size of my wife’s shoe, zigzagging through the trees. A blue-gray gnatcatcher, a small Old World warbler, threw me past without it spinning as it disappeared and reappeared behind a clump of leaves. I looked up to see a flock of snowy egrets forming. A Common Yellowthroat, another newly arrived warbler, was working low in a bush.

At the edge of the moat, a magnificent frigate flew above our heads. Then, a hundred yards away, a large black mass fell at an angle of attack toward the far edge of the ditch. He disappeared into a small grove of trees with a snapping sound and I got worried.

Nothing happened for a good minute, but then a dark phase short-tailed hawk appeared, having missed its target, and flew away.

It’s still up for debate whether it’s worth crossing the field at Fort Zach to the group of trees known informally as the Back 40, especially when it’s hot like Hades, but I headed for him. Halfway through, I spotted a pile of feathers and bones. The skull was missing, but the long legs made me think of a wading bird, and when I flipped one of the wings there was a lot of rufous in the feathers, which made me think of a green heron.

While being all “CSI: Bird Crimes”, I heard a splash behind me and turned around to see a Belted Kingfisher coming out of the water. Then I heard what my notes describe as a “recipe growl” – it was voice-to-text, so I probably didn’t say recipe – and I turned to see a white ibis slipped on the water.

As I worked towards the Back 40, I saw the white S-shape of a great white heron in the shade of a buttonhole, then the smiling yellow of a prairie warbler in a mangrove, then, at a hundred feet above the fort, the frantic flapping of a swivel, the most psychopathic of American hawks, on an urgent mission to wreak havoc somewhere.

In the blessed shade of the hammock I heard the yelp of a barn swallow, but I didn’t bother to look for it, for I had seen a few thousand on the drive from Alabama. Then I saw a black-and-white warbler spiraling up a branch, as if trying to trace the erratic scratch of a poorly painted barber pole.

There was a quintet of Florida Keys staple bird species – a pair of northern mockingbirds, a royal tern, a laughing gull and a mourning dove.

The first bird that made me doubt myself was in a patch of ragweed on the way back through the field. It was a medium-sized, brown, ridged songbird with a large honking beak, hanging from one of the stems. I waved a butterfly net around my skull for a while, found nothing, felt defeated briefly, then saw it clearly: a dickcissel, which is not a fourth grade version year of blasphemy, but rather the name of a little seed-eating bird that breeds in the Midwest and that you can see here once or twice a year if you’re lucky.

The alarm went off on my phone, telling me it had been an hour. I hadn’t even hit all the good spots in the park, so I hit snooze and headed back to the hammock for another hour.

When I got home, the new dog had only eaten one pair of my flip flops.