A Cooper’s Hawk, a Great Blue Heron, and a Rusty Blackbird Singing

Late this afternoon, with the sun low but still bright, Pine Siskins called their twanging zhrreEEE from the pines as I went out for a walk. It was pleasantly cool, with a light westerly breeze. Cedar Waxwings scattered high, thin, piping notes and perched in the tops of trees, facing the sun. Chipping Sparrows flew up from the grass along the roadside ahead of me. I had stopped to watch a House Finch singing from the top of a tree in one yard when a Cooper’s Hawk glided low across the grass and up into a tree on the other side of the yard. It sat facing away from me, calm and still for three or four minutes, turning its head one way and the other. It was a juvenile, with a brownish back, and when it flew, it showed a very pale, brown-streaked belly, breast and under side of the wings, and wide bands of dark and light in the flared tail. It stayed fairly low, flapping until it was out of sight.

Red-winged Blackbirds sang all along the way, scattered out here and there, but it wasn’t until I was heading back toward home that I came to a small part of the usual large flock spread out on grassy yards and in trees. Most of these were Red-winged Blackbirds and a few were Common Grackles. In the bare limbs of one pecan tree, six Rusty Blackbird males perched together. All were glossy black, with yellow eyes, thin, sharp bills, and a little rust still showing in the wings.

Two were perched close together, one slightly above the other, facing the sun and in particularly good view, and one of them was singing – a creaky, repeated song with two chucks, then a few gurgling notes – Chck-chck. Churk-urk-a-WEE! It had something of the quality of a Red-winged Blackbird’s song, but not nearly as full or colorful or appealing. Still, it was really fun to watch and listen as it sang.

When I was almost home, a Great Blue Heron flew over, flying north to south in a pale blue, quiet sky, flapping its huge gray wings slowly, steadily and gradually disappearing over the top of the treeline.

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