The Fourth of July – Scarlet Fireworks

Early this morning a Scarlet Tanager sang from the top of an oak at the edge of the woods across the road. Its clear, pure red and black gleamed in the sunlight as it lifted its head and parted its beak and sang again and again – a small, fiery, solo celebration in song.

The morning air still felt barely cool, and the sky was blue and clear. Thanks to the holiday, it was unusually quiet, no yard machines, and almost no sound of traffic in the distance. Most birds have become rather quiet now, too, as usual at this time of year, their songs and activity more scattered and subdued.

A Northern Parula wheezed in the trees around our house. A Great-crested Flycatcher called breet. Bluebirds and Phoebes hunted from low branches, Goldfinches flew over calling potato-chip, and a Chipping Sparrow sang a long, light, airy trill. A juvenile Chipping Sparrow followed a parent into the grass, begging with a high, thin ti-ti-ti-ti-ti-ti. A Downy Woodpecker rattled, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker flew from one tree to another. A House Wren perched in a river birch and sang its cheery, bubbly song. Chimney Swifts swooped quietly, low over the grass. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird twittered as it zipped over my head, heading for the back yard and probably for the feeder and the geraniums on the deck. With a strangled whistle and jingle, a pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds came to the birdbath for a drink.

About a week ago, a Bluebird pair began working on a new nest. The male sat often on top of the nest-box while the female flew in with nesting materials. Today I only saw the male and it wasn’t near the nest-box, and wondered if the female is brooding eggs – or not. I’ve never liked to open the box to see, even though supposedly it doesn’t bother them. I’d rather wait.

On a walk around the neighborhood, mostly what I noticed was the lazy green quiet and the hum and whine and buzz of cicadas and other insects. A Red-eyed Vireo whistled from the woods around one corner, a less urgent, slower-paced, sweeter song than a week or two ago. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo called a dry cawp-cawp-cawp. Two Barn Swallows swooped and dipped over the big grassy yard where I always stop to watch them for a while.

Two Red-tailed Hawks perched on the tops of poles overlooking the highway, and another – a juvenile – flew from one pine to another on the edge of the woods, pursued by two agitated Mockingbirds. The juvenile and at least one of the mature hawks have been around this area every morning recently, sitting on the poles or soaring, the juvenile often crying loudly.

Mockingbirds, Towhees and a White-eyed Vireo were singing in the field, but there were no signs this morning of Indigo Bunting or Blue Grosbeak. Sometimes they’re here, these days, and sometimes not. Just as I started to turn back toward home, a Cooper’s Hawk flew from a line of trees across the road and over me and into the pines and oaks on the far side of the field.

Leave a Reply