White-eyed Vireo

Last night, rain began early in the evening and continued to fall for much of the night, a slow, steady, soaking rain. By early morning it had stopped, but the sky remained deeply overcast and dark with clouds, the ground and trees and all the vegetation drenched, still dripping, and the air felt wet and warm. Surprisingly few birds were singing when I first stepped outside – Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse – and not far away, the long level trill of a Chipping Sparrow.

The new arrival of the morning was a White-eyed Vireo singing in the old field just outside our subdivision, the first time I’ve heard a White-eyed Vireo here this season. It seems like almost every day in April brings one or two returning summer birds or migrants passing through. The White-eyed Vireo’s familiar, percussive chick-per-chickory-chick sounded right at home in the tangle of dense privet, blackberry vines, honeysuckle, chinaberry trees and other trees, shrubs and grasses of the field, though at times it was almost lost in the constant noise of traffic on the highway not far away.

It sang from too far deep in the thickets to see – a small gray-green bird with yellow spectacles around the eyes, a white throat, and a flush of yellow on its sides. It’s a bird that prefers just this kind of scrubby, tangled vegetation for habitat and usually stays low out of sight, deep in the shrubs. I’m sure the traffic noise is not a welcome background, and as this gets louder every year, I always wonder if summer birds will return – and in fact, wonder why any would choose to be here. I don’t know the answer to that, but it may be that even marginal places like this old field provide important habitat when so much is being lost.


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