Birding Notes

Reflections on birds and other wildlife on the edge of a southern woodland

Friday, June 22, 2007

Summer Solstice

The first day of Summer began quietly, well before dawn, with the solitary song of a Wood Thrush in the distance. Then a Summer Tanager began to sing right outside my bedroom window, joined by one, and then two Cardinals, then an Eastern Towhee, a Carolina Wren and a Bluebird. By 6:00 am the yard around the house was full of birdsong – Titmouse, Phoebe, Red-eyed Vireo, Great Crested Flycatcher, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Black and White Warbler, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Brown-headed Nuthatch and Goldfinch, and probably others lost among the chorus. As I stepped out the front door to go for a walk at 6:30, the sky was a quiet gray with high rumpled clouds beginning to show faint pink.

The streets of the neighborhood were empty, the houses all quiet. I saw no one, and not a single car or truck passed me as I walked. Three Brown Thrashers sang along the way. A Blue Grosbeak sang from the top of a small pine. A juvenile Red-tailed Hawk sat in the top of a larger pine in the same area and screamed repeatedly, and a Yellow-breasted Chat whistled and cawed in the Old Field.

The rest of the day was a perfect summer day – hot, humid, breezy, with birds active, but in a much less hurried and exuberant way than in early spring. The morning sky was a gentle blue with high thin cirrus clouds, the trees a deeper, summery green. The whine and drone of insects, the heat and humidity, all combined to make it seem that everything has settled into a serious, but more relaxed pace. Tiger Swallowtail and Red-spotted Purple Butterflies floated among the trees and over the grass and flowers. The whine of Cicadas rose and fell.

Later in the morning, Chimney Swifts twittered as they swept overhead. A Great Crested Flycatcher called Whreep! from the low branches around the house. A pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds visited the feeder now and then, though not often. A female house finch came to the bird bath for a drink. A Red-bellied Woodpecker called its purring whirrrr. A Yellow-throated Vireo made its way through the woods, singing as it went. Paper wasps hunted around the shrubs, and green anoles skittered along the deck rails and up into the hanging ferns. And a Chipping Sparrow gave a long, level trill from a bush in the front yard, over and over again – becoming the most noticeable song of the morning.

A Yellow-billed Cuckoo sang its dry, exotic song all around the edge of the woods most of the afternoon, along with the pik-a-tuk of a Summer Tanager, the pit-seet! of an Acadian Flycatcher from down in the woods near the creek, and the complaining nyaay of a Red-eyed Vireo in the oaks – the sounds of a summer day.


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