Yellow-breasted Chat, Gray Catbird and Blue Grosbeak

This morning – another in a string of pleasantly cool early mornings, with blue sky and rumpled white clouds – a Mockingbird was singing from its usual perch on a wire overlooking the old field. Most of the Mockingbirds in the neighborhood have fallen quiet now, but this one still sings enthusiastically – including the sounds of red-tailed hawk, blue grosbeak, wood thrush, white-eyed vireo and bluebird, as well as others. Two Mourning Doves sat on a wire. A Blue Grosbeak was singing from the far north end of the field, and one silent Red-tailed Hawk sat on a pole overlooking the highway.

I heard the chick-a-perioo-chick of a White-eyed Vireo, as often, and just happened to catch a glimpse of it flying out to catch an insect on the edge of a thick growth of trees and vines. It was too far away to see well – not much more than a little gray bird – but it was singing as it moved.

Then I heard a hoarse chet-chet-chet-chet for the first time this summer – and again was just lucky to see a flash of bright yellow-gold – a Yellow-breasted Chat. It was closer than the Vireo, moving around on the outside of a thicket, so I could also see the pure-white belly and white spectacles.

Because there seemed to be an unusual amount of activity in the field, I watched for a few minutes, and found a quiet Gray Catbird lurking in the weeds and vines – for the first time this summer.

Both a male and a female Blue Grosbeak flew from shrub to shrub at the edge of the power cut, calling bright chink! notes. Two Blue-gray Gnatcatchers flashed silver as they flitted in and out of bushes.

An Eastern Towhee was singing its tink-tink-tink song again, both from the field and from a perch on the wire, toward the southern end of the field. He didn’t seem disturbed by my standing right below him to listen. The song begins with a trilled, downward chee-ur, then a sharp, quick tink-tink-tink.

Seeing the Yellow-breasted Chat and the Gray Catbird – both of which I had not seen or heard this season until today – makes me think these birds are not just suddenly here. I think I’ve just been distracted and not observant enough to see or hear them recently. Too much lost in thought and not paying enough attention to what’s around me.

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