Yellow-breasted Chat

After many days of hot May sunshine and plenty of rain toward the end of the month, the old field that runs along a dead-end road between our subdivision and highway 441 is a lush mess of grasses, kudzu, privet, blackberry and honeysuckle vines, wild grape, purple thistle, rough wild roses, pokeweed, chinaberry trees and dozens of other weeds and weedy trees, and a dense and spreading small woodland of pines, sweet gums and oaks. Bird songs there, especially early in the morning, have to compete with the highway’s busy, loud traffic.

This year for the first time in a decade, there’s no Blue Grosbeak singing in the field. I saw a male there once in the spring, but apparently it didn’t stay.

But there is an Indigo Bunting that chants from a perch on kudzu-covered bushes in the middle of the field, and two or three White-eyed Vireos, Eastern Towhees, Mockingbirds, Brown Thrashers and Cardinals in abundance, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – and Brown-headed Cowbird. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks can be seen around here almost every morning, often perched on utility poles overlooking the highway, sometimes sharing a pole, and soaring later in the day.

And for the first time in three or four years, there’s a Yellow-breasted Chat in the field. That’s a happy surprise. Several times I’ve thought I heard its harsh chet-chet-chet-chet calls, but couldn’t find it for sure, and I just thought it was wishful thinking on my part. But two days ago, Saturday morning, I heard the call, this time repeated again and again as the bird moved quickly from bush to bush, and finally I saw a quick flash of deep gold-yellow as it flew. I haven’t gotten a good close look yet, but its call is familiar and distinct. I don’t know if it’s nesting in the field or if it’s there every day, or maybe it’s nesting in woods nearby and just visiting the field now and then.

Leave a Reply