Archive for March, 2023

Blue-headed Vireo

Tuesday, March 21st, 2023

This morning, another cold and clear day just before sunrise, another birdsong woke me just as quickly and happily as the Black-and-white Warbler two days ago. This one was the very different song of a Blue-headed Vireo, a series of slow, sweet phrases, repeated over and over again. It came close and stayed nearby for several minutes, as other birds sang in the background. I listened, following the song as moved rather slowly from tree to tree around the edge of our back yard. I could only imagine its sleek, round blue-gray head with a bold white pattern like spectacles that circle the eyes. Its back is greenish, its throat and breast clean white, with a wash of yellow along the sides. It moves as it sings – deliberately, with pauses – searching the branches for insects, spiders and other small prey.  

This trio of early migrants here – Louisiana Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler and Blue-headed Vireo – usually all arrive around the same time – mid March if not earlier. As their songs join the songs of our year-round resident birds and winter birds, they are like the earliest spring flowers, welcome signs of a new season of life and color. 

Black-and-white Warbler

Sunday, March 19th, 2023

A few minutes before sunrise this morning, the song of a Black-and-white Warbler pulled me quickly out of bed. I’d been waking slowly and lazily, but the sibilant weesa-weesa-weesa song that came through my open bedroom window is one I’ve been waiting impatiently to hear. I listened at the window for several minutes as it moved from tree to tree around our back yard, singing as it went. I couldn’t see it because of the angle of my view and a porch roof below, but it came pretty close at times and I could imagine the small, slender bird, striped all over in black and white, as it crept quickly over and around branches, searching for food. 

Louisiana Waterthrush

Wednesday, March 15th, 2023

This morning began cold and clear, with a hard freeze that has threatened to nip some of the flowering trees and shrubs that have emerged so early this year, after a stretch of warm, spring-like weather that began in mid-February. As I stood on the front porch before starting out on a walk, I heard a bright, soaring song coming up from down near the creek that runs through our woods. It was the song of a Louisiana Waterthrush, a lively brown warbler with a streaked breast, long pink legs and short but very expressive tail, that returns each spring to nest along the banks of streams. Always one of the earliest migrating birds to arrive, the Louisiana Waterthrush sings a bold, shining song that lights up the winter-gray woods – and heralds the approach of spring.

A Barred Owl Calls

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

From the deep silence of a dark, still night came the sudden, booming call. Hoo-owwww, the call of a Barred Owl. It sounded very close. It was a mild night, not cold at all, with temperatures in the mid 50s, perfect for sleeping with open bedroom windows, but no crickets or other night insects singing yet. I’d been lying awake between 3:00 and 4:00 am, having trouble going back to sleep, when this big, rich, expressive call brought the too-quiet night to life. It’s amazing how much an owl can express with just one call. Not that I know what it was expressing, but it sounded full of life and detail. 

After that one call, silence returned for several minutes, maybe half an hour or more, and I thought the owl must have flown away. But then, just as unexpectedly, it called again, sounding as if it came from the very same spot. It sounded very close – though I know this can be deceptive. This time it called three, maybe four times, with just a few moments in between. Not the full who cooks for you but just one good strong Hoo-owww each time, ending with a slight, purring tremolo. I listened, but could not hear another owl’s call in response. 

Though a Barred Owl’s call is powerful and at times I would describe it as loud – as when two Barred Owls are caterwauling back and forth in their wild way. But when one calls like this, it seems to express a lower, more intimate quality – though certainly it still fills the night. I could almost feel this call as much as hear it, feeling it in my chest and stomach and heart, a velvety, feathery quality, warm and sensual. And that feeling of being connected to life outside in the night, on a restless, sleepless night, was a comforting thing.