Gray Catbird Eating Poke Berries

This morning a big open blue sky marbled with high white clouds looked utterly empty as far as I could see, except for one soaring Black Vulture. Birds mostly were very quiet, just the chatter of Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice, the nasal calls of a White-breasted Nuthatch, and now and then a song or burbled call of a Carolina Wren.

It’s the time of year when the old field is at its most colorful, wild and overgrown, especially this year after so much rain. It’s rough and thorny with grasses, weeds, vines and shrubs, and for some reason the kudzu has not spread much at all. Along the roadside, foxtails have appeared among tall, tough green grasses that almost smother out the low-growing purple stiff verbena and a few yellow dandelions.

One of my favorite spots is a ditch along the edge of the field, where morning glories spill up and out through the weeds in a profusion of white, deep-purple, blue and pink blooms. Twisting among them and even further out among the weeds are the tiny bright blooms of red morning glories. And further out in the power cut, the first few big white blooms of wild potato vines have opened.

Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur butterflies and one burning-orange Gulf Fritillary fluttered by – and I’m sure there were many other butterflies I missed as I walked by this morning.

A Gray Catbird flew out of a thicket and perched on a tall, sturdy red stem of pokeweed, where it sat for several minutes, eating purple poke berries. Slate-gray all over, with a neat black cap, a slender bird with a long tail and bright dark eyes, the Catbird looked momentarily relaxed, at home among the thickets and weeds, and yet, its shadowy body seemed to hum all over with restless energy.

Though very active and vocal, Gray Catbirds are also secretive and stay hidden in low shrubby vegetation most of the time. I’ve been hearing its raspy mews in the field since mid July, but this was one of the few times this summer I’ve seen it.

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