Late Summer Quiet

This morning no Wood Thrush sang, and very few other birds sang or called. A Carolina Wren, a Northern Cardinal, a Tufted Titmouse. One at a time. The most quiet time of the year is here, as the nesting season comes to an end and birds begin to drift away. 

The morning was warm and sunny with a soft blue sky and scattered dusky clouds. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds zipped and hummed, almost constantly coming and going from the hummingbird feeder, dueling, chasing, and now and then sitting to sip nectar. Two, three, four at a time – four is the most that I’ve seen at once, but there may be more. They’re coming so frequently now that we refill the feeder almost every day. 

A brilliant yellow American Goldfinch came to drink water from the moat in the middle of the feeder, making soft, sweet sounds, and when it flew to a nearby tree it looked like a daylight firefly. The sparkling chatter of several more Goldfinches came from trees on the edge of the yard. 

The day soon became hot. Cicadas filled the air with their harsh buzzing songs that rose and fell in waves all day, at times making it hard to hear much of anything else. Birds were scarce or staying out of sight. Everything seemed to come in a slow, almost dreamy summertime way – the soft, cool coos of Mourning Doves, the cries of Blue Jays, the shadowy, cawping calls of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo somewhere deep in the woods. An Eastern Phoebe hunted from trees in a big shady yard, bobbing its tail as it sat on a branch. Two Black Vultures soared very high against white clouds, and a Turkey Vulture floated lower. A Red-shouldered Hawk called a choppy kee-yer, kee-yer from a grove of old oaks. A Fish Crow cawed its nasal anh-anh. 

The wings of a Mourning Dove whistled as it flew. A few small grasshoppers hopped out into the road. Butterflies fluttered in the yellow blooms of lantana – two Tiger Swallowtails, lots of little Fiery Skippers, four Common Sootywings, one Buckeye – and one lone bumblebee. 

A Mississippi Kite came into view, circling and climbing higher. With the sun almost directly behind it, it looked mostly dark, but the crisp, sleek shape of its wings and tail was clear, and as it rose higher its white head gleamed now and then. A second, then a third Mississippi Kite appeared, all soaring and circling very high – and higher, until they disappeared into the blue.

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