White-eyed Vireo and Lots of Other Birds – a Spring Morning

The highlights of a cool, showery April morning here included our first-of-the-season White-eyed Vireo, the continuing songs of a Yellow-throated Vireo, Northern Parula and Black-and-white Warbler, the somewhat unusual tink-tink-tink song or call of an Eastern Towhee, a flock of at least 86 Cedar Waxwings, and an Eastern Phoebe singing and giving its chatter-call from the spot on a gutter pipe over our garage where Phoebes nested successfully last year.

Early in the morning, in soft sunlight before the clouds moved in, the Parula’s rising buzz and the Yellow-throated Vireo’s throaty but clear, four-phrase musical notes stood out among the confusion of birdsong all around – the loose, shimmering trills of Yellow-rumped Warblers, the squeaky-wheel song of a Black-and-white Warbler, and the rapid, jubilant bursts of song from Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Carolina Wrens, Cardinals, Mockingbirds, Brown Thrasher, Pine Warbler, Chipping Sparrows, Phoebes, Titmice, Chickadees and one cheery Robin sang, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher called spee-spee, and woodpeckers drummed. A Mourning Dove cooed. Chimney Swifts chittered, passing overhead. The Louisiana Waterthrush was missing this morning, or maybe I was just out at the wrong times.

A Pileated Woodpecker gave its cuk-cuk-cuk call from down in the woods, and a Red-shouldered Hawk cried kee-yer from behind the screen of trees to the east.

The old field up near Highway 441 was a tangle of sound, as well as a tangle of new green, weedy growth. No Black-and-white Warbler there this morning – but Mockingbirds, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Cardinal and Carolina Chickadee all were singing, and Blue Jays called. Among the various birdsong, plus the noise of traffic from the nearby highway, I could just barely hear the percussive chick-a-peri-oo-chick of a White-eyed Vireo – finally! They seem to be a little later than usual arriving here this year – this is still only the first one I’ve heard around our neighborhood, though they’ve been reported other places nearby.

I also heard the possible call of a Yellow-breasted Chat in the field – but the familiar, harsh chet-chet-chet-chet-chet might have come from a Mockingbird, I can’t be sure. A Yellow-breasted Chat often used to stay for the summer in or near the field, but the past year or two I’ve only found them passing through, here for a day or two at most.

Eastern Towhees are singing drink-your-tea all through the neighborhood, and in the old field, one was singing a version of its song or call that includes an emphatic tink-tink-tink! at the end. I have not been able to find any other descriptions of this song but have heard it in previous springs – it begins with a garbled trill and ends with three very crisp, distinct notes all on the same pitch.

In three pecan trees with tiny new leaves, but still pretty bare-looking, several dozen Cedar Waxwings perched and called their high, hissing tseeees – I counted 86 waxwings, and there probably were more. They mostly were just sitting, not eating, clustered tightly in three main groups with others scattered around them, the wind ruffling the feathers in their crests. I kept finding more and more, the longer I looked.

One White-throated Sparrow whistled its sweet, plaintive song, and others fed quietly under shrubs – while at least two foraged in the tops of water oaks among new green leaves and catkins. Two Turkey Vultures soared below the gathering clouds, and one Black Vulture hunched on top of a utility pole, looking as if it was hoping for more promising weather.

By noon, a light rain was falling, and by late afternoon, a harder, more serious rain – very welcome after many days of unseasonably hot, dry, sunny weather.

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