Acadian Flycatcher

The last day of May began – as most days recently have – with the song of a Carolina Wren from the branches of the white oaks right outside our bedroom windows. When the Wren moved further away, an Eastern Phoebe began to sing nearby.

The morning began cloudy, softly gray, warm and muggy, with the blurry kind of clouds that would gradually melt away. By mid morning, the sun had begun to burn through, opening patches of blue.

A pair of American Goldfinches came to the hummingbird feeder on the deck to drink from the moat – the flashy, bright-yellow and black male sat on top of the crook that holds the feeder and waited as the female – more subdued in color – inched her way down to drink upside down from the moat. Then she flew to a branch of the nearby oak and waited there while he drank. Then they flew away together.

A male Ruby-throated Hummingbird zipped up to the feeder and hovered to sip. Some baby birds begged in wheezy voices from somewhere nearby in the trees, and a Northern Cardinal, House Wren and Chipping Sparrow sang from neighboring yards. A Mourning Dove cooed. A Red-bellied Woodpecker called its musical quurrr, and a Red-eyed Vireo sang so very far away through the woods that it was almost a rumor. A Summer Tanager also sang – even further away, it seemed.

From the woods came a sharp, crisp call, like a check-mark in the morning air – peet-sah, repeated. It was the first time this season I’ve heard an Acadian Flycatcher singing in our woods. At first it sounded as if it was down near the creek, then the “song” – which doesn’t really sound like a song, but is – came steadily closer and closer, as the small neat bird made its way up the slope through the woods, close to the edge of our back yard. I never saw it, but didn’t expect to, and was happy enough just to hear its dry but expressive song and know that it’s nearby.

An Acadian Flycatcher is a small gray flycatcher – olive gray on the head and back, and pale underneath – with white wingbars and a white ring around the eye. Though unobtrusive and seldom noticed, it’s one of my favorite woodland birds, and its presence in our patchy, but persistent woods is a reassuring sound, especially since the species prefers mature forest habitat, and is considered particularly vulnerable to forest fragmentation.

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