Eastern Wood-Pewee

The first few days of May have been unseasonably cool and rainy. Last night a hard rain fell all night long, tapering off to lighter showers that continued for hours. Finally, late this afternoon, the clouds began to part – and when they did, the change was sudden and dramatic, giving way to an intense, deep-blue sky with huge, gleaming white clouds. Dark purple rain clouds still hung on the horizon in the north and east.

Rainwater dripped from all the trees and shrubs, the ground was drenched and water stood in ditches along the roadside – and it’s all wonderful. It feels so good to have this much rain again, after years of dry springs and summers of scorching temperatures and drought.

A short walk during this sunny break in the rain held some highlights as bright as the sunshine on the wet, sparkling leaves. The first came as I was walking up a hill with woods on one side and heard a clear, whistled wheee-ooo, and then the full, sweet pee-a-wee; wheee-ooo of an Eastern Wood-Pewee. It’s another first-of-the-season for here, and an increasingly uncommon bird in our neighborhood, maybe because more and more wooded areas have been replaced by homes and yards, or maybe because white-tailed deer have browsed out so much of the understory in the woods that remain.

The Wood-Pewee was perched in a water oak on the edge of the road, out in full view, flying off to catch insects and returning again and again to the same spot, or close to it – a small, neat flycatcher, all-over gray, much paler on the under side, with faint white wing-bars and a slightly crested head. Its flight as it sallied out to catch insects looked crisp and efficient, while its song sounds dreamy, languid and sweet.

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