Birding Notes

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

Friday, January 15, 2010

Birdsong on a Winter Morning – Pine Warbler and Others

“The calendar may tell me that the toughest days of winter are yet to come, but I know in my heart that on December 21 it is already spring. I have heard it in the air. I have heard it in the lusty singing of nuthatches and titmice and chickadees. The woodpeckers are drumming, female jays and crows rattling. In the grand cycle through the seasons, these birds know what time it is.” (Donald Kroodsma, Birdsong by the Seasons)*

It wasn’t on the winter solstice, but near the end of the first week in January when I heard the first Pine Warbler sing – a rich, musical trill like a breath of spring air on a very cold, icy, clear mid-winter morning. That was several days ago, and since then they’ve been singing every day. As I work in my office, one sings just outside my window, and I’ve also heard their songs in other parts of the neighborhood. A pair has been coming to the feeders in our front yard, a splash of warm yellow among the more somber-colored Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Chickadees, Titmice, Downy Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches and Chipping Sparrows.

This morning – still cold enough for ice in the bird baths, but sunny and warming up fast, with a bright blue sky – several other birds were also singing, reminding me of Kroodsma’s words and of his chapter, "The Winter Solstice Is the First Day of Spring." Two Carolina Wrens sang back and forth, matching each other’s songs and switching from one to another, a Tufted Titmouse sang peter-peter-peter, a Carolina Chickadee fee-bee, fee-bay, an Eastern Towhee drink-your-tea, an Eastern Bluebird warbled and a House Finch whistled its cheery song. A Red-bellied Woodpecker gave its spring-like quurrr call over and over. Northern Cardinals also began to sing in the first week of January, but this morning they were quiet, at least while I was listening.

Later in the morning two Brown-headed Cowbirds sat in the top branches of a bare tree along the edge of the road, giving a surprisingly nice sort of dry, feathery, trilled call together as they flew. I’ve been watching and hoping for Blackbirds, but the Cowbirds weren’t exactly what I had in mind. There’s still no sign of larger flocks with Red-winged and Rusty Blackbirds that we’ve had in previous winters. The big open grassy yards where they used to spread out every day seem empty this year, and very quiet.

Two Red-tailed Hawks perched together on the top of a utility pole in a power cut, facing each other and looking content to sit together and soak up some sun. After a few minutes one dropped down from the pole and spread its wings, gliding out and circling up with ease and calling as it got higher, as if urging the other to come along.

Two Golden-crowned Kinglets called ti-ti-ti from some pines, and one came down low enough to see for several minutes, showing a bright gold-orange crown. Some years there are more Golden-crowned Kinglets here than others, and this year there seem to be fewer, so it feels like a good day when I can catch a glimpse of one or hear their calls.

Brown Thrashers seemed to be more active than they have been for a while. Several in the old field were exchanging loud smack calls, and while I was walking past the field three came out into the tops of bushes to call and look around. I don’t know if I just happened to come by at a time when they were out, or if they, too, are beginning to feel like spring.

*Donald Kroodsma, Birdsong by the Seasons, A Year of Listening to Birds 2009, page 275.


Post a Comment

<< Home