Birding Notes

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Parula Warbler’s Cool Song, and a Sun-loving Blue Grosbeak Pair

For the most part, birds have been very quiet lately, but early this morning, despite the continuing heat wave – with temperatures of 100+ expected again today – a surprising number of birds were active. Near the pond, a Parula Warbler sang its buzzy, rising song, sounding like cool water and shady trees.

Four Bluebirds perched together in the top bare limbs of a small tree at the edge of a yard. A Red-eyed Vireo sang from the treetops near our house – the first one I’ve heard singing for some time now. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers called spee! from bushes along the roadside. A Great-crested Flycatcher called whreep! Chimney Swifts chittered as they swept overhead. The calls of Carolina Wren, Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Cardinal, and Blue Jay came from yards and bushes all through the neighborhood.

In the dry, drooping thickets of the Old Field, a White-eyed Vireo and an Eastern Towhee sang, and a Catbird complained in a hoarse mew. A Red-tailed Hawk perched on the top of a pole overlooking Highway 441, and a Turkey Vulture floated in a bleached-blue sky. Mockingbirds sat quietly perched on wires or flew down to the grass to hunt.

But the real sun-worshippers among the birds seem to be the pair of Blue Grosbeaks that have made their summer home in the Old Field. Every morning for the past week or more, the male has been perched on a wire over the edge of the field singing, and every morning the female flits from stem to stem in the tall grassy weeds below the wire, flashing her tail and calling a metallic plink! The male usually looks like no more than a dark silhouette on the wire, but when the morning light hits him, his deep blue plumage with orange wing bars shows up richly. The female’s tawny colors also are easy to miss, but she’s very active and vocal as she moves around in the weeds – and their distinctive, almost bell-like calls usually get my attention even when I’m not looking for them.

Two male Blue Grosbeaks have been singing in different areas of the Old Field all summer, usually making fairly predictable circuits of their territories, singing in different spots at different times. It’s only recently that this male and female have been so consistently staying right around this one spot just on the edge of the field. This morning, I also saw a third Grosbeak in the weeds with the female, and I’m guessing it’s a juvenile.

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