The Coo of a Mourning Dove

The first week of July has brought more long, hot days of summer, now defined by the dry, rasping, humming, chirping, buzzing music not of birds but of insect songs and sounds – cicadas, grasshoppers, crickets, wasps, bees, flies, gnats, beetles, mosquitoes, dragonflies, katydids at night, and many more than I can name.

Birds have become so quiet at times it seems unnerving. A few still sing, but not so often, not so many at once, and some have fallen quiet. So to see and hear them takes more time and patience, a good excuse to drift into the spirit of a summer day and just be lazy – sit back in the shade and watch to see what happens.

In the mornings, a Northern Cardinal and Carolina Wren are often the only birds singing when I first go outside – not a complaint, the songs of both are music enough to make a day worthwhile. An Eastern Bluebird may murmur its blurry song from a branch near the box where a pair is feeding a second brood. A Chipping Sparrow spins a long, long level trill. A Red-bellied Woodpecker quuurrrs. An Eastern Phoebe hunts quietly from low branches around the yard. A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in water oaks calls a wispy spee-spee. By mid-morning, the days are already hot, the sun already high and bleaching out the blue of the sky. And from somewhere ripples the soft, cool hoo-OOO-oo-oo of a Mourning Dove, a sound so common and familiar I almost don’t notice it, woven so seamlessly in with the background music of insects and barely stirring leaves.

Distant Crows caw and Blue Jays cry. And from a large oak down the street, a Summer Tanager whistles its lilting, sing-song tune over and over – it’s one of the most persistent singers lately, along with a Mockingbird that still sings exuberantly from the top of a tall Leyland cypress. Downy Woodpeckers whinny, House Wrens burble in effervescent bursts of song, Goldfinches fly over calling potato-chip and Chimney Swifts chitter, a House Finch pair comes to the bird bath, and each day there seem to be a few more American Robins foraging in large grassy, shady yards.

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