Birding Notes

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

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dean Martin of Birdsong

For two and a half weeks, I didn’t hear the song, or even the pik-a-tuk calls of a Summer Tanager – usually one of our most vocal summer birds. I last heard them on June 27 – then not again until last Wednesday, July 16, when I was leaving for an early morning appointment and heard the familiar song again from one of the trees in our front yard. I’m sure they’ve been around, but they’ve been pretty quiet.

Since then, a Summer Tanager has been singing often around our house and in the woods nearby. This morning, it was the first song I heard when I awoke, and when I went out for a walk about 8:00, the male was sitting in a low branch of a pecan tree, in full view, singing rather lazily, barely seeming to open his bill as he crooned his song of smooth, velvety phrases.

As I watched him, a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird flew up and perched beside the Tanager, just a little further out on the same branch. For maybe 30 seconds they both sat there – the relatively big, placid, solid-red bird with the long thick bill and the full, rich voice, and the tiny little gray and green bird, a whirring, nervous ball of energy, momentarily still. The Tanager blinked first, leaning forward and flying, and the hummer zoomed off after it, as if chasing it – but I don’t know if it really was or not.


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