Gray Catbird and Song Sparrow

The surprise of the day was finding a Gray Catbird feeding on clusters of dark purple fruit in a privet thicket among all the withered, tangled brown weeds in the old field. The Catbird was quiet and stayed mostly screened in the brush, but came out in the open long enough to see very well – a slender, all-gray bird with a thin black cap, one of my favorites. Usually we don’t see them often at this time of year. Most migrate a little further south for the winter or to the neotropics.

I only saw it because many White-throated Sparrows, several Eastern Towhees and Northern Mockingbirds, a Brown Thrasher, a small flock of Cedar Waxwings, Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and at least three Ruby-crowned Kinglets were all very lively in the weedy grasses and thickets of the field, especially in the privet. So I stopped to watch for several minutes. There also are persimmon trees with fruit in the field. The kudzu vines are all shriveled and dead, the grasses are brown and gray, with lots of dusty, drab gray-brown clumps of goldenrod gone to seed.

Among the other birds were Song Sparrows – brown-streaked backs and wings with darker streaks on a pale breast that come together into a central dark spot in the middle of the breast – the first ones I’ve seen this season. Two came out onto open branches, tails twitching and swishing fast, heads held high and erect, nervously looking around but lingering, as if to soak up some sunlight.

It was almost noon, usually a very quiet time for birds, but the day had begun with dense fog and heavy clouds. The sky had begun to clear about 11:00, and as the clouds dissipated and the sun came out, birds became more active, so it was a good time to be out.

A Red-tailed Hawk flew low, pursued by several cawing Crows. Six Black Vultures and two Turkey Vultures soared very high. The high, thin calls of Cedar Waxwings passed over as small, tight flocks flew. And almost all the other usual suspects seemed to be out, warmed to action by the sun – or maybe it was only that the sun warmed me to action and made me more aware and open to seeing and hearing. Either way, it was a particularly nice walk at a beautiful time of day.

Leave a Reply