Summer Mornings

Less than a week away from the summer solstice, we’ve had day after day of hot, sunny, dry weather, temperatures often in the mid to upper 90s, and it’s beginning to seem less like an early heat wave and more just what summer is going to be this year.

But early mornings are beautiful – fresh and cool, with scattered birdsong that’s less exuberant than earlier in the spring, but pleasant in a slower-paced way, and often there have been surprises lately, isolated visitors passing through. This morning a Yellow-billed Cuckoo called in woods along a creek, the first time this summer I’ve heard its dry cawp-cawp-cawp, so I think it had probably wandered by from woods not far away.

Yesterday morning a White-breasted Nuthatch gave a sharp, nasal ahnk! ahnk! from the trees around our yard – a rare visitor. And down the road in another part of the neighborhood, an Eastern Wood-pewee whistled its summery pee-a-wee, wheee-oooo.

Earlier in the week, just for one morning, a Northern Parula stopped by to sing its buzzy, rising and falling trill in the trees on the edge of the woods – another rare visitor so far this summer.

Meanwhile, one of the nicest parts of this time of year – when it can seem birds are so quiet and so scarce – is the relaxed, repeated rhythm of finding familiar birds in familiar places, a daily ritual, more ephemeral than it seems right now – a Scarlet Tanager that sings in the trees all around our house, a Summer Tanager that’s often singing at the same time from the top of the large red oak on the corner, Chipping Sparrows that trill from the branches of young red maples in our front yard, the breet of a Great-crested Flycatcher from the edge of the woods, a Black-and-white Warbler singing its wispy weesa-weesa-weesa in a scrappy patch of woods on a hilltop, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher calling spee and flashing like a slender elf of silver-gray in the leaves of pecans by the roadside; the twitter of Chimney Swifts sweeping overhead; a Gray Catbird that mews loudly from big shrubs around one yard; a family of Red-shouldered Hawks whose cries can be heard most mornings in deeper woods along a creek; Barn Swallows with long forked tails that swoop and dip and streak over a large grassy yard.

In the old field, the young Blue Grosbeak now sings boldly from the tops of trees every day, its song a confident, full, rich warble; an Indigo Bunting chants its sweet-sweet, chew-chew, sweet-chew from the tops of chinaberry and wild cherry trees, a smaller, neater, more compact song – like the diminutive bird itself – but even more brilliantly colored and bright; one White-eyed Vireo, a Pine Warbler and several Eastern Towhees sing also in the field. It seems a little strange, but that’s the only place where I usually hear a Pine Warbler singing right now.

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