A Possible Cerulean Warbler, Northern Parula and Yellow-throated Vireo

The Yellow-billed Cuckoos were one of the highlights of the most active morning for birds in several weeks. Weather has been very hot and dry. Birds have been – as usual at this time of year – pretty quiet and staying mostly out of sight. But this morning temperatures had dropped into the upper 60s and the air felt cool and fresh, the sky soft blue with small high white clouds.

Three Eastern Bluebirds perched in the top, bare branches of a pecan tree, facing the sun as it climbed higher. An Eastern Phoebe gave a couple of tsup calls and flew into the top of a small scrubby tree and sat there, bobbing its tail before flying on further and singing once from another perch. This caught my attention mainly because even the Phoebes here have been so quiet and unobtrusive for the past few weeks.

From a thicket of small pines and other trees and shrubs, came a buzzy song with a distinctive pattern that I’m almost certain was the song of a Cerulean Warbler. It sang over and over – two or three quick buzzy notes then an even quicker chatter and high note. I listened and watched and tried for several minutes to find the singer – with no luck. Very frustrating – because I’ve never seen a Cerulean Warbler. I’ve listened to the recordings, and this sounded absolutely perfect. But I can’t be sure. There’s always the possibility of wishful thinking.

There definitely were two Northern Parulas singing in two different wooded areas in the neighborhood. Their buzzy, rising trills, with the tripping fall at the end, are familiar and sweet, and it’s only in the past week that I’ve begun to hear them again after the quiet lull of mid summer.

Another song not heard for quite a while until this morning was the slow, burry refrain of a Yellow-throated Vireo, with the three-eight phrase rising from the treetops somewhere along the edge of the woods. In past years, a Yellow-throated Vireo or two have stayed around throughout the summer, but this year I heard their songs only rarely, even in early spring.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers also have seemed less numerous this summer, but on most days their brisk, whispery spee-spees can be heard here and there. This morning when I stopped to check out several small birds flitting around in a small oak, one turned out to be a silvery-gray, exquisite Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Against the green background of the tree, its cool, crisp colors, slender, upturned tail, and bright white eye-ring caught the light and it almost looked as if it were made of glass.

The Old Field just outside our neighborhood looks parched and battered by the long very hot summer. Even the kudzu has not spread far and its leaves look limp. The Indigo Bunting and Blue Grosbeak that sang until late July have fallen quiet or maybe even left. I haven’t heard them since we returned from a trip in early August. Several Mockingbirds are active, but not singing; Brown Thrashers occasionally give loud smack calls but are pretty much lying low. But a Gray Catbird whines a loud, rasping meeew from privet thickets, Eastern Towhees call cher-wheee, and this morning for the first time in weeks, a Pine Warbler sang its loose, musical trill from the dense stand of pines and oaks at the south end of the field. A White-eyed Vireo also sang – one of the few birds here, along with Carolina Wrens, that has continued to sing all summer, though this year there seems to be only one White-eyed Vireo, not several as in previous years.

Morning glories have begun to bloom on vines in a roadside ditch by the field – deep purple, pink and white, despite the heat. A very few butterflies flit over the weeds – lemon-yellow Sulphurs, a Buckeye, a burning orange Gulf Fritillary, a low-fluttering Sleepy Orange.

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