Summer Tanager

The soft pik-a-tuk calls of a Summer Tanager moved through the leaves of the oaks around the edges of the yard. The sunny morning felt warm, but not yet hot. A Pine Warbler trilled its song, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds twittered as they flew from branches in the oaks to the feeder and back again, and off, chasing each other. A Carolina Wren sat on the deck rail and sang very loudly, its small body pulsing up and down with each phrase. An American Goldfinch called as it flew over, a Downy Woodpecker whinnied, a Red-tailed hawk screamed, over and over again, soaring somewhere near. An Eastern Towhee called chur-whee, and a Northern Cardinal peeped.

The Summer Tanager stayed deeply hidden in the foliage, its dry, ticking calls tracing its progress through the leaves, and I could only imagine how it looked as it moved, hunting for caterpillars and insects, maybe a bee or a wasp. A sturdy songbird with a rather large head and a long, thick bill, the male rose-red all over, the female deep, shadowy yellow.  

The morning felt peaceful and quiet on this Labor Day – no leaf blowers, no traffic sounds, at least not yet. Grasshoppers and crickets chirped, and a few cicadas raised their songs, but not many. Carolina Chickadees and Tufted Titmice chattered in the woods. It felt good to be home, as always, after ten days away, even though we enjoyed the trip. I felt surrounded and bathed in green leaves, with trees all around me. 

All is not well with the world. Not at all. Climate change looms and grows worse every day – and yet we fail to pay attention, we fail to do what must be done. Birds, bees, butterflies and frogs, forests and oceans are dying, glaciers melt, and not a day goes by when I do not struggle to think what more we can do, what more I might do. And how.

And I have no answers that are new. Some days it seems the best I can do is to pay attention. To notice the Summer Tanager’s soft call, and the song of a Carolina Wren. To continue taking note of what is here, as well as what’s not.

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