Early Morning – Summer Tanager and a Pair of Eastern Towhees

Early on a quiet, almost cool gray morning, a Pine Warbler sang in the woods. A Carolina Wren burbled and another trilled. Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice made small, high, chipping, ticking sounds in the treetops. A Northern Cardinal peeped. A Downy Woodpecker whinnied. Two Red-bellied Woodpeckers flew from tree to tree, making churck-churck calls and stopping to work on a trunk here and there. An Eastern Bluebird murmured. Distant Crows cawed, and a Blue Jay squawked. A Mourning Dove I hadn’t noticed flew up suddenly from the ground on whistling wings, and away.

Under a tall, dense hedge of wax myrtles, a pair of Eastern Towhees hopped and scratched up leaves. Even in the gray light and shadows, their colors stood out – the male a bold black, red-orange and white; the female warm, suede-brown, orange and white. Two American Robins and a pair of Cardinals flew in under the shrubs to join them. A Northern Mockingbird sat near the top of one of the wax myrtles, head high, tail lifted slightly, looking alert, watching the yard. A Brown Thrasher lurked near the bottom of the same wax myrtles, looking handsome and strong as always, with its long fierce bill – but hiding cautiously there. It always seems interesting and almost a paradox to me that, except in the spring when they’re singing, Thrashers are so skittish and shy.

On the other side of the shrubs, in an open area of grass, one small, brown-streaked Chipping Sparrow hunted, apparently alone, almost invisible except when it moved. A Brown-headed Nuthatch arrived in some pines with squeaky chatter. An Eastern Phoebe sang. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird zipped over the street and shrubs, through the trees and over the roof, heading for the oaks and the feeder out back.

Then a quiet Summer Tanager flew into the branches of a tall, slender river birch – one of three that grow together gracefully on the edge of the yard – and remained there, glowing rose-red, among the small, shimmering, yellow-green leaves of the birch for several minutes.

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