Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Gray Catbird

This morning Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were again flitting all along the edge of the thickets in what remains of the old field. Three in one spot, four in another, two further along, they animate the drab green weeds and tangle of vines. 

A dark-gray bird flew up to perch near the top of a thin, near-leafless wild pear tree out in the middle of the field – a Gray Catbird, adding to the list of surprises I’ve found in this spot in the past few days. This one’s especially nice to see because this summer Gray Catbirds have not nested in our neighborhood or the subdivision next to us, for the first time in recent years. I’ve watched for them ever since the spring, and they never showed up here. There was a pair around our own front yard that I saw a few times in late spring, and I was hoping they might stay. But they didn’t – at least, not anywhere I’ve been able to find them. So it’s nice at least to see one passing through. 

Gray Catbirds are among my favorite birds, very animated in their behavior, all dark gray with jaunty black cap, and rusty-orange feathers under the long, expressive tail. Like its close relatives, Northern Mockingbirds and Brown Thrashers, a Gray Catbird sings a song that includes mimicked sounds, though it’s not as fluent as a Mockingbird. A Gray Catbird’s song is a long series of unusual and sometimes awkward-sounding notes, many of them nasal or creaky in tone.

This one today was not singing – or calling its raspy, cat-like mew. It only stayed in the treetop for a few moments, holding its long tail down and looking around, before flying back down into the thickets and out of sight.

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