End of August – Female Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Wood-pewee, Northern Parula

As August comes to an end, we’re having the longest spell yet of very hot, dry days. No rain at all. The whole summer has been unusually hot, but until early August, we got just enough rain now and then from afternoon thundershowers to keep things green. But now – the oaks, tulip poplars, pecans, dogwoods, pines – all of the trees and vegetation are showing signs of serious stress. And there’s no sign of relief for the next ten days, at least. The forecast is for one day after another in the mid to upper 90s, and little or no chance of rain.

Early mornings can still be nice, though, sometimes almost cool, in the upper 60s, and more bird activity each day, it seems, as early fall migrants begin to come through – and at the same time, even resident birds seem to be a little more active and vocal than three or four weeks ago.

This morning a female Scarlet Tanager flew up from our yard into a small oak and paused for a few moments among the leaves – a medium-size dusky, olive-yellow bird with slightly darker, brownish-yellow wings, and a relatively small, pointed bill.

A Northern Parula sang its buzzy, rising song from a thicket of water oaks and weeds across the street.

Further down the road, an Eastern Wood-pewee whistled its full, sweet summer song from somewhere in the trees behind a neighbor’s house, a languid, clear peeah-wee – WHEEeee-oo. Eastern Bluebirds flew in colorful bursts from grass to trees, and several bluebirds perched in the top bare branches that often stick up from pecan trees – a favorite spot in the early mornings as the sun is rising higher.

Two Pine Warblers sang loose, musical trills, one in a low, wooded area along a creek, the other in the dense pines and oaks that have grown into a small wooded patch at one end of the old field. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers called spee-spee from shrubs and trees in several places. An Eastern Phoebe hunted quietly from low branches in a large yard shaded by pecan trees. Mourning Doves cooed.

A dozen or more Chimney Swifts swirled and chittered high overhead in a soft blue sky with sweeps of white cirrus clouds, and six Black Vultures soared even higher.

Two Gray Catbirds mewed raspy, whining meeeahs from shrubs in the old field, along with one singing White-eyed Vireo. One of the catbirds perched in the top of a tall, ragged pokeweed choked with kudzu, while a Brown Thrasher flew quietly to the branch of a privet bush and nervously looked around, switching its tail. Eastern Towhees called cher-wheee, and Northern Mockingbirds flashed white wing-patches as they foraged in the grass.

Carolina Wrens sang, chattered, trilled, burbled and fussed in wooded or shrubby areas. One young Chipping Sparrow begged and was fed by a parent, and several other Chipping Sparrows fed in the grass with House Finches and bluebirds. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird twittered as it zipped by, not far from my head. And most of the other usual suspects were around – chickadees, titmice, cardinals, blue jays, crows, and one pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches in some pines.

A Red-shouldered Hawk cried kee-yer – soaring very high, barely more than a small, bird-shaped spot in the sky. No Red-tailed Hawks were around this morning – but later in the day I heard the short, insistent cries of one that soars nearby most afternoons, a juvenile, I think.

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