Gray Catbird in the Field, and Two Mississippi Kites Soaring

This morning dawned beautiful, clear, sunny and cool, in the sixties for the first time in a long while, and birds seemed more vocal than for the past few days, maybe welcoming the weather, too. The quiet’s not unusual for August, with the songs of cicadas, grasshoppers and other insects often drowning out most other sounds. Many mornings lately, I could stand on the porch and hear only one bird or two, at most. Very, very quiet. But this morning, even before leaving our own front yard, I heard an Eastern Bluebird’s blurry call, the song of a Carolina Wren, an Eastern Towhee, a Red-eyed Vireo’s song, the caw of a Crow, the squawk of a Blue Jay (and another Blue Jay doing a pretty good imitation of a Red-shouldered Hawk). American Goldfinch called as they flew over, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker rattled.

On the edge of a neighbor’s yard, four Chipping Sparrows flew up from the grass into a small tree, their bright reddish-brown crowns glowing. A Northern Cardinal ducked into the dark green depths of a Leyland cypress.

For most of a walk through the neighborhood, the usual suspects were around, widely scattered – the spee calls of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, the WHEET-sit of an Acadian Flycatcher, a Downy Woodpecker’s silvery rattle, the soft pi-tuk calls of one Summer Tanager; the chatter and songs of Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens; a scattering of quiet American Robins, the coo of Mourning Doves, several quiet but active Northern Mockingbirds, and the song of one White-breasted Nuthatch. A Red-shouldered Hawk sailed silently, suddenly just over the treetops ahead of me, and disappeared into the woods. The long, dry, percussive call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo came from very far away.

In the old field, the vines of small deep-red blooming morning glories have begun to twist and spread through the tall grasses and other weeds near the roadside. A Red-tailed Hawk sat on the top of a pole. A Gray Catbird gave a raspy mew from a perch on the edge of a ragged privet thicket, well camouflaged, a dark-gray shadow of a bird among dull-green leaves.

As I walked along the field toward its southern end, two tiny field mice ran out of the grass and weeds onto the open pavement in front of me, pretty close, and froze there. They were so very small, barely an inch or two long each, plus thread-thin tail, light brown and frail looking – they looked like little cartoon mice. I stood very still for several seconds, then stomped a foot lightly – and they both scurried off into the weeds again.

The sky was beautiful, blue and all but empty, with one Turkey Vulture the only soaring bird until I was almost back home, when two Mississippi Kites appeared, dark slivers of wings, soaring high in the southeast, and soon drifting away, out of sight.

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