A White-breasted Nuthatch, Hermit Thrush – and 21 Species in a Short Morning Break

Late on a cool, cloudy morning the front yard was active with small birds, and though there never seemed to be large numbers or a flock at any time, in no more than 20 minutes standing on the front porch, I saw or heard 21 different species.

A Northern Mockingbird sat on the feeder when I first came out – probably trying to monopolize it. But it soon gave up and flew away, and Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, a Downy Woodpecker, a House Finch pair, a Brown-headed Nuthatch and a Carolina Wren all came and went. Two Dark-eyed Juncos, a White-throated Sparrow and three, four, five Mourning Doves searched for seeds under the feeder.

A male Eastern Bluebird sat on top of the bluebird nest box – already looking possessive – up near the edge of the yard, and a female Bluebird hunted from low branches of nearby oaks, flying down frequently to pick up an insect or something. An Eastern Towhee called a rich chur-wheeee, and an Eastern Phoebe whispered tsup, tsup. Yellow-rumped Warblers flew from tree to tree, scattering check calls. Two bright spots of red, Northern Cardinals, foraged on the ground under shrubs near the road, a Red-bellied Woodpecker chucked and called its spring-like quurrrr, and a tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet moved quickly and quietly through the branches of shrubs. Crows cawed in the distance, and several Canada Geese honked as they passed by.

A White-breasted Nuthatch – an infrequent visitor to our yard, though I often hear the call of one or two in the neighborhood – flew to the trunk of a pine, where I watched it spiral around, pause while upside down, and look up in its classic pose, showing off the sleek, sharp lines, the snow-white face and throat, black cap and blue-gray back.

But my favorite bird of the morning was a Hermit Thrush that flew in a flurry out of some bushes not far from the porch and into a Savannah holly tree beside where I stood, and perched there a minute or two, not far away, sitting very quietly among a tangle of branches and sparse leaves, maybe hoping to blend in. With soft-brown back and dark-spotted breast, it lifted its cinnamon tail and lowered it again, and watched me with a round dark eye.

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