Archive for February, 2007

Prelude to Spring

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

The highlight in our yard and neighborhood this month has been the beginning of birdsong. On February 8, Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice, Carolina Wrens, House Finches, Bluebirds and White-throated Sparrows all were singing, and one Song Sparrow tried out a rusty version of his song. On February 9, I heard the first Pine Warbler sing, and since then their soft trill has been heard almost every day. Phoebes began to sing February 13, and the first Brown Thrasher on February 20.

We’ve continued to have many active White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers around our front yard, along with Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, a pair of Downy Woodpeckers, and one lone Robin. Occasional visitors included Northern Flicker, Brown-headed Nuthatches, and Hairy Woodpecker.

A flock of Rusty Blackbirds has continued to visit the grassy yards of the neighborhood; and I’ve seen a Cooper’s Hawk three times; a Belted Kingfisher three times; and heard the calls of a pair of Barred Owls once. Toward the end of the month, we began to see a small flock of Cedar Waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings Hawking Insects

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Late this afternoon, in warm, sunny weather, a small flock of Cedar Waxwings perched in the tops of several cedars and bare-limbed trees on either side of a neighborhood street. They were widely scattered, and in constant motion, hawking for insects. Each would perch for a brief moment only, then flutter up to catch an insect, yellow breast and the trim gold tip of its tail flashing in the sunlight, then return to a different perch. All together, they looked like colorful sparks jumping from a hidden fire, and their high, thin calls sounded like sparkles, too.

He Said, She Said

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

For the past few days, the first thing I’ve heard at dawn is the clear, bright song of a Cardinal. As soon as I step outside, I can see him, perched in the very top of one of the bare-limbed trees, like a small, precise drop of glistening red paint on a canvas of pale blue and white, singing “cheer, cheer, cheer, birdie-birdie-birdie.” Late this afternoon, I heard the familiar song in a lower branch, just over my head. But woven into the usual notes were some low purring and trilled sounds that I’d never noticed before. It turned out to be a female Cardinal singing.

Cardinals in general have a varied repertoire of songs and calls, and it’s well known that females sing, too, often in response to their mates. From what I’ve read, the females are capable of singing just as loudly and emphatically when they want to, but in this case, her song – like her coloring – was softer and nuanced with subtle expressions that were quite different from the flamboyant style of her mate.

The First Brown Thrasher’s Song

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Early this morning, as a red-gold sun slipped up between dark purple clouds, a Brown Thrasher sang in our yard for the first time this season.

The morning was warm and damp from a brief early shower, and smelled of wet earth and leaves. Cardinals, Titmice and Chickadees also sang, and a Red-tailed Hawk sat in the bare limbs of a pecan tree by our driveway, looking somewhat ominous. Then it flew. Down the street a flock of 50 or more Blackbirds, mostly Grackles, filled the branches of another tree, and their noisy conversation made a crackling background for all the other bird songs and calls.

A Phoebe’s Song

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

The day began with a spring-blue sky veiled in thin white clouds, and birdsong. Cardinals, Chickadees, Titmice and Bluebirds have been singing for several days now, and this morning a Phoebe joined them, singing its lisping song for several minutes at the edge of the woods.

By noon, thick gray clouds had moved in and almost covered the sky. Two Red-tailed Hawks swooped low over me as I started out on a walk, startling me with how close they came. In a strong southeasterly wind, they skimmed the tops of the trees and dipped low over roof-tops, then glided away, swiftly and silent, toward the west.

A noisy flock of about a hundred Common Grackles and Rusty Blackbirds fed on a brown grassy lawn in the area where I’ve often seen them this winter. The Rusty Blackbirds still show a good bit of cinnamon coloring, and distinct dark streaks through the eyes. One showed no rusty coloring, but a dark streak through the eyes across a grayish face – and it might have been a Brewer’s Blackbird, but I am not certain. I’ve only just begun to become familiar with the Rusty Blackbirds this year, so I’m not confident enough to be sure this one was different. But it caught my eye. I’m hoping to see them again.

So even a very ordinary looking flock of Blackbirds in a yard in a subdivision can turn out to hold surprises and mysteries.