A Pine Warbler’s Song

February began with a cold, frosty morning, around 28 degrees very early, clear and sunny, with pale, almost white light, and a soft blue sky with high, feathery clouds and spreading jet trails. When I first stepped outside, I caused a flurry of wings and leaves as Eastern Towhees, a Brown Thrasher, and maybe some sparrows or wrens fled into the shrubs. Towhees called chur-whee, and a House Finch and an Eastern Bluebird sang. Three Northern Cardinals, two females and a male, were foraging in a small strip of grass along the road. Some Brown-headed Nuthatches called their squeaky-dees from nearby. 

As I walked uphill along our driveway, a Pine Warbler trilled its song from a wooded area across the road. Pine Warblers have been singing for almost a month now, since early January, which is about the time I usually begin to notice them again. I haven’t heard many, but here and there, a lyrical trill brings a touch of spring-like color to the grim gray woods.

The rest of a walk through the neighborhood was pleasant and mostly uneventful, with the usual suspects along the way – American Robins scattered out in big, grassy yards; a Ruby-crowned Kinglet calling its dry jidit-jidit in thickets on the edge of Colliers Woods; Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens fussed and sang; an Eastern Phoebe hunted from a low branch; Red-bellied Woodpeckers called chuck-chuck; and one Downy Woodpecker called its silvery, descending rattle. In one rough patch of trees and tangled undergrowth, a well-hidden White-throated Sparrow called a clear, repeated alarm – chink! chink!

All in all, the day felt mostly quiet and peaceful. Mourning Doves cooed. A Turkey Vulture drifted above, the only soaring bird in the sky. One Northern Flicker fed in some grass, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker worked on a pecan tree. A flock of around 200 blackbirds, mostly Common Grackles, as well as I could tell from a distance, moved restlessly around in several yards, flying constantly in small groups from trees to grass and back to trees. 

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