After a Storm

The last day of April began dark, under threatening clouds, and by mid morning thunder, lightning and heavy rain had begun, and continued until after noon, followed by almost an hour of strong, gusty winds that ebbed and flowed like nausea, tossing the trees wildly, then subsiding, only to return again and again. Then abruptly, the wind stopped and the sky began to lighten. I walked out onto the deck behind our house, surrounded by clouds of wet green leaves, and found the trees sparkling with birdsong and bird activity. A Red-eyed Vireo, Pine Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, and Parula Warbler all were singing, and the song of the RE Vireo seemed especially sweet and crisp, as it went from branch to branch, low in a White Oak tree near the deck, singing intensely and fast.

Also in the trees nearby were a quiet Yellow-throated Vireo, a male Blackpoll Warbler, and a Cape May Warbler in full spring plumage. I had heard the Cape May singing earlier in the morning, before the rain began, but had been unable to spot it in the dim gray light. Now, as it moved from spot to spot in some low branches not far away, its bright yellow neck and breast, streaked with black, and its coral cheek, dark head, yellow rump, and prominent white wing coverts all stood out warmly among the green leaves.

From our front porch, on the north side of the house, I could see the clouds clearing from the West. A House Wren sang loudly and cheerily, along with a Bluebird, Robin, Chipping Sparrow and Carolina Wren, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker flew into the top of one of the trees and whirred.

I was watching a female Blackpoll Warbler that had just flown into a pecan tree, when I saw on a branch just above it a flash of red—a male Scarlet Tanager, and slightly above him, a female. For several moments, they fed in the tree, the male, “flaming scarlet,” as Peterson’s Field Guide says, with jet-black wings, went from branch to branch and flew up now and then to catch and swallow flying insects. The female, a soft, dark lemon color with wings just slightly darker, stayed closer to the branches, feeding on something in the leaves or flowers of the pecan. They could not have appeared more striking, as if posed for a photo, in green leaves glistening wet, with the clearing sky of gray and cream clouds behind them.

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