Archive for February, 2009

Cardinal Duet

Friday, February 6th, 2009

Early this morning – a clear, cold day – a Cardinal sat in the top of a pecan tree, catching the first rays of the rising sun, and sang. His bright song – seeer-seeer-purdy-purdy-purdy – was closely echoed by another, slightly softer purdy-purdy-purdy-purdy that chimed in near the end each time he sang. The second singer was a female Cardinal perched lower down in the branches of a tree on the other side of the yard. They sang like this together several times, all the while I was walking up the driveway to get the morning paper, and walking back.

Birds In Motion – Variations in the Obvious

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Late this morning the sky was a soaring soft blue, marbled with swirling white clouds, and a northwest breeze was stiff and cold – it felt good to be outside and walking. Birds were active everywhere. A Bluebird flashed against a background of drab and faded grass. A Phoebe swooped down to the ground and up to a limb where it quickly bobbed its tail. Yellow-rumped Warblers chased each other in and out of evergreens. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet stuttered as it flew out to the edge of a bush, looking around curiously. House Finches – invisibly perched high up in a tangle of gray-brown branches – whistled long, rambling tunes. Red-bellied Woodpeckers flew in roller-coaster, dipping flight from tree to tree, and a Downy gave its high, cascading whinny. Pine Warblers sang from the edges of the woods.

A vivid Yellow-bellied Sapsucker mewed repeatedly as it hitched and peered around the trunk of a pecan tree, his throat and crown deep crimson. A female, more subdued in her coloring, watched him quietly from the trunk of a nearby tree with interest, but without responding.

Dark-eyed Juncos, Chipping Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows rustled and pecked in leaves on the ground, each moving in a different, distinct sort of way. Juncos peck at the ground, look up and around, and scurry to another spot, often in the direction of where another bird is foraging. Chipping Sparrows appear more calm and casual, often staying in one spot for several seconds or longer – unless startled, when they fly up in a sudden, silvery flash of wings, as if becoming a different bird. It always amazes me how they change so quickly. White-throated Sparrows venture out from beneath the shrubs watchfully and forage methodically, sometimes sitting quietly against the base of a trunk for several minutes, just looking around, diving straight for the bushes when disturbed.

Two warm-yellow Pine Warblers searched for food with several Yellow-rumped Warblers along the sides of the road and on the road itself, littered with leaves and maybe with seeds or insects of some kind. Some of the Yellow-rumped Warblers looked less drab and more spring-like, with bright yellow sides and crisp dark streaks.

A Red-tailed Hawk soared over, wings outstretched, all pale underneath with dark brown band and wing tips, brown head, and dull orange tail. We’re lucky to have a pair that we see almost every day, and I never get tired of watching their flight, especially on a day like today, when it looks majestic, broad wings spread out and lit against the blue sky. A second Red-tailed Hawk flew up from a bank of trees, and the high one screamed, answered by the other.

Pine Siskins’ Metallic Zhree-eee-eee

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

From a stand of several pines came a grating, sharply rising call – zhree-eee-eee – and a twitter of shorter, raspy chirps. The trees were full of Pine Siskins. These were the first ones I’ve run into away from the feeders in our yard, and it was interesting to watch them in a different setting – or just to listen to them. Their zhree-eee-eee calls are fascinating. The sound makes me wince like a shock, and yet, I stood there listening to it again and again because it’s so intriguing. It’s a like a buzz of electricity zipping up a wire, with a tense quality of warning to it, and an eery undercurrent of music.