Mid-July – A Scarlet Tanager Sings on Long, Hot Days

This morning began, like most mornings the past week or two, with the song of a Scarlet Tanager in the oaks outside our bedroom windows. The fiery red bird with black wings sings persistently much of the day from around the edge of the yard and the nearby woods, flinging out its hoarse series of phrases over and over again, and in quiet periods the chik-brrr calls of one or two Scarlet Tanagers lace through the shadows of the trees. I seldom see them, except when the male perches near the tops of trees to sing, and even then, despite the flamboyant plumage, he’s often screened by the leaves. But it’s really nice to hear the songs and calls so often and so close around.

Under a glorious early morning sky – deep blue and white, with a profusion of clouds of many shapes and kinds, long streaks, veils, little puffs, quilts, powdery, disintegrating jet trails, and distant lazy cumulous clouds – a Chipping Sparrow sang its summery long, level trill from a group of small pines on the edge of a yard across the street, where it usually sits and sings each morning.

The air felt fresh, though warm already, and by mid afternoon it was hot again, upper 90s. It’s been a long hot summer here, as in much of the country.

A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher called spee as it flitted from branch to branch in the thick foliage of some maple trees, and a Great Crested Flycatcher called whreep from the big red oak down at the corner of our street. Both gnatcatcher and flycatcher have been pretty quiet lately, along with most other birds. But this morning there seemed to be a little more activity than usual – or maybe I was just out earlier. A Red-eyed Vireo and a Summer Tanager sang from the edge of the woods, and a couple of Carolina Wrens.

Bluebirds perched in the tops of trees, facing the morning sun, and Phoebes hunted from low branches, quietly. A Ruby-throated Hummingbird zoomed low over my head, and five Chimney Swifts twittered and swept the sky. An American Goldfinch flew over, giving its potato-chip call, and flashed such a bright yellow it looked like a tiny light. It landed in the top of a pine, and perched there, a gleaming gold against deep green and blue.

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