Black-and-white Warbler and Gray Catbird

A good soaking shower last night helped offset the effects of temperatures near 100 again, so this morning all the trees and grass and other vegetation looked refreshed and amazingly green, given the heat. The air felt fresh and the western half of the sky was soft blue, traced with high, filmy white clouds – though in the east, the sun already was high by mid-morning, bleaching the sky to hazy white.

When I first stepped out the door and stood on the front porch for a minute or two, except for the murmur of one Eastern Bluebird and an indistinct sort of chirping way down in the woods, I could hear no birds at all. Cicadas sang loudly.

Despite the quiet of the morning, as I walked through the neighborhood there seemed to be more activity than usual lately, maybe the first faint signs of a change – or not. I don’t know, but today was the first time in a couple of weeks or more when I’ve been sorry I did not carry binoculars on my walk – it’s been so hot that I’ve not wanted the extra weight, so I’ve been relying on listening, and until today, had not felt I missed much. This morning, though, I caught glimpses of several birds in the foliage or perched in treetops, some flying from one spot to another – and wished I could have gotten a better look.

A Black-and-white Warbler sang in a large thicket of privet, pines, water oaks and other shrubs and vines near the creek, the first time I’ve heard one since mid June. I could just barely see it, creeping its way around the large branches of an oak. A Red-eyed Vireo sang in a wooded area further uphill. And a Gray Catbird gave a raspy, loud meeanh in the old field and flew from the top of a privet bush into another area of thick weeds. Northern Mockingbirds are mostly quiet now, but one sang this morning in the area around a small pond. Others hunted along the roadside, raising their wings to flash the white patches. Brown Thrashers are quiet, and stay mostly out of sight.  A few American Robins forage in open yards. Eastern Bluebirds show their colors, among the most noticeable birds around right now. One Turkey Vulture soared, and appeared to have the whole huge open sky to itself, as far as I could see. Although a few Chimney Swifts usually are around, this morning there were none.

And while many birds are quiet, others are still active and vocal, and their songs and calls come here and there, scattered like splashes of color in a landscape – Eastern Towhees, especially, sing drink-your-tea or cher-weee; Carolina Wrens trill, sing and burble; Chipping Sparrows give dry, small chips and long level trills; Great Crested Flycatchers call whreep or burrrrt. Brown-headed Nuthatches squeak; Northern Cardinal, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse sing, chatter and fuss. Red-bellied, Downy and Pileated Woodpeckers rattle and call; Ruby-throated Hummingbirds zoom by with a low, zinging hum. A Red-shouldered Hawk soaring somewhere out of sight cries kee-yer. American Goldfinches often give their flight calls as they pass over, flashing like little yellow lights in the sun. Indigo Bunting, Blue Grosbeak and one White-eyed Vireo continue to sing in the old field. Mourning Doves coo.

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