Archive for July, 2010

Mid-July – A Scarlet Tanager Sings on Long, Hot Days

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

This morning began, like most mornings the past week or two, with the song of a Scarlet Tanager in the oaks outside our bedroom windows. The fiery red bird with black wings sings persistently much of the day from around the edge of the yard and the nearby woods, flinging out its hoarse series of phrases over and over again, and in quiet periods the chik-brrr calls of one or two Scarlet Tanagers lace through the shadows of the trees. I seldom see them, except when the male perches near the tops of trees to sing, and even then, despite the flamboyant plumage, he’s often screened by the leaves. But it’s really nice to hear the songs and calls so often and so close around.

Under a glorious early morning sky – deep blue and white, with a profusion of clouds of many shapes and kinds, long streaks, veils, little puffs, quilts, powdery, disintegrating jet trails, and distant lazy cumulous clouds – a Chipping Sparrow sang its summery long, level trill from a group of small pines on the edge of a yard across the street, where it usually sits and sings each morning.

The air felt fresh, though warm already, and by mid afternoon it was hot again, upper 90s. It’s been a long hot summer here, as in much of the country.

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher called spee as it flitted from branch to branch in the thick foliage of some maple trees, and a Great Crested Flycatcher called whreep from the big red oak down at the corner of our street. Both gnatcatcher and flycatcher have been pretty quiet lately, along with most other birds. But this morning there seemed to be a little more activity than usual – or maybe I was just out earlier. A Red-eyed Vireo and a Summer Tanager sang from the edge of the woods, and a couple of Carolina Wrens.

Bluebirds perched in the tops of trees, facing the morning sun, and Phoebes hunted from low branches, quietly. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird zoomed low over my head, and five Chimney Swifts twittered and swept the sky. An American Goldfinch flew over, giving its potato-chip call, and flashed such a bright yellow it looked like a tiny light. It landed in the top of a pine, and perched there, a gleaming gold against deep green and blue.

In the Old Field, Blue Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting and White-eyed Vireo

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

On the edge of the old field that runs along the road just outside our subdivision, a Blue Grosbeak has been singing every morning now for several days. This morning he perched on the crest of a diamond-shaped road sign. A dark, ink-blue with rust-orange wing bars and big silver beak, he tilted his head back and sang again and again. As I walked past him along the road only a few feet away, he stopped singing, switched his tail back and forth, and called a nervous, repeated chink! and was answered by another grosbeak hidden somewhere in the thickets – but he did not fly, and as soon as I had gone on past, he started singing again.

I had given up on seeing a Blue Grosbeak regularly in the field this summer, because until recently, I had only seen one a couple of times – but now here in the middle of the summer, there’s one that sings and sings, and seems to have a mate nearby.

A little further up the road, an Indigo Bunting also continues to chant its sweet-sweet, chew-chew, sweet-sweet song, and this morning was perched where I could see it, in the top of a Chinaberry tree – a tiny little drop of bright clear blue, with a hint of turquoise. A White-eyed Vireo and Eastern Towhee also were singing in the field. Mockingbirds and Brown Thrashers moved quietly around in the heat-withered kudzu, privet and blackberry vines. Mourning Doves perched on the wires.

Two Red-tailed Hawks perched on widely-spaced utility poles overlooking the field and the highway beyond – as they do just about every morning recently, at least one of them a juvenile. Two Black Vultures also are usually sitting on one of the poles, one on the pole itself, and the other on the wire right beside it.

Blue Grosbeaks in the Field

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Late this morning – a warm, muggy day with sluggish clouds slowly, slowly drifting away – two Blue Grosbeak females or juveniles were giving loud chink! calls and flashing around from spot to spot among the tall grasses and weeds in the old field. One clung to the tall ragged stem of a weed and switched its tail back and forth vigorously, as the grosbeaks often do. Their plumage was a warm tawny brown, but I couldn’t see them well or in detail, because I hadn’t brought binoculars along – it’s been so hot lately I haven’t wanted the extra weight. Any time I leave them behind, it’s almost certain that I’ll see something interesting.

But even without binoculars they were fun to watch – so energetic and full of life. I’ve seen a male and heard his song very infrequently this summer, and think they probably nested in the woods on the other side of the highway and only come into the field to visit.

The same thing is true of the Yellow-breasted Chat, which also was in the field and calling (or singing – I’m not sure how to distinguish its strange vocalizations) this morning, as it does now and then, but not every day.

Other singers along the way included a Northern Parula making its way through the trees on the edge of our yard, Carolina Wren, Summer Tanager, Acadian Flycatcher, Chipping Sparrow, Phoebe, Cardinal, Mockingbird, American Robin, Bluebird and White-eyed Vireo. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Great Crested Flycatcher called. A Downy Woodpecker and a Red-bellied Woodpecker rattled, but only here and there, not nearly as vocal as at other times of year. Mourning Doves cooed. The usual two juvenile Red-tailed Hawks sat on top of utility poles overlooking the field and the highway, quiet this morning.

A neighbor stopped me along the way to tell me he’d enjoyed seeing at least 10 American Goldfinches, maybe more, feeding in a bee balm shrub in their yard.

Two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds zoomed and twittered past me as I walked – and later in the day a male and two or three females or juveniles visited the feeder and the geraniums on the deck often. Several Tufted Titmice come to shallow saucers of water on the deck to bathe, and to drink from the moat in the center of the feeder. Cicadas sing loudly all around.

Wood Thrush continue to sing in two places – one near a creek in the woods, and the other this morning in a scrubby patch of trees and lots of privet, honeysuckle and kudzu around the entrance to a subdivision down the road. Their musical, fluted notes carry and echo for a long way.

Two Red-eyed Vireos moved quietly through the tops of water oaks and pecans in our front yard. A few minutes later I heard their complaining nyanh calls.