Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Flight from the Usual

Bird Seasons

For 19 years I have kept a bird diary. Each month I have, and still do, keep track of the seasonal birds who visit my backyard. I take note of the day I first see them each year. Over these 19 years, I have discovered each species arrives almost the same time each year. The arrival date may vary by a week or two but you can safely bet money on when they’ll make their appearance.

During these 19 years I began to associate some birds and their calls with the seasons. The first indicator of fall is the arrival of the blue gray gnat catcher. Their high pitched little beep let’s you know they have arrived even before you finally see them flitting from tree to tree. The definite arrival of fall and winter is announced by the catbird. It’s aptly named because of its cat-like call. Spring is announced by the departure of the catbird and the arrival of the brown thrasher. The thrasher looks to be an angry little creature with its yellowish brown eyes and a distaste for any other birds within yards of its own location. Even when the thrasher is tending its brood, it has a temperamental disposition. Having said that, the thrasher has a range of beautiful calls and songs. Finally, the fly catcher heralds in the arrival of summer. The fly catcher’s call sounds like someone blowing one of those little plastic whistles kids used to get in Cracker Jacks. Fly catchers are also damned defensive birds. I have seen them fly from their nesting place and latch onto a bird intruding into what the fly catcher believed to be its own personal air space. They will latch onto the bird’s back and take it all the way to the ground before releasing it.

This morning I opened my kitchen window and there on the ground beneath my bird feeder was a snippy looking brown thrasher gnashing at the grass as he searched for food. First thrasher of the year. He looked up at me with those little angry eyes as if to say, What the hell are you looking at? I knew what I was looking at. I was looking at the beginning of Spring.


Blogger Carl said...

Ah, for me, the arrival of the cardinal signals to me it's time to get firewood stacked.

While the hummingbird tells me "I'M HUNNNNNGREEEEEEE!!!!!" and that summer is a-cumin.

March 10, 2006 6:49 AM  
Blogger SB Gypsy said...

Finally! I so long for spring...

March 10, 2006 9:42 AM  
Blogger shutterwi said...

Love this post. As we "speak" I'm loading my iPod with new bird calls I want to learn.

But saidly the spring is quite away off it this part of the country.

Historically the ice on the bay is here until April 21.

Now having said that it's a beautiful sunny day out today so I hear my camera calling.

March 10, 2006 10:43 AM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Shutterwi, I'm going to be occasionly tossing in some posts on nature because it's my first love.

March 10, 2006 11:40 AM  
Blogger enigma4ever said...

This is so lovely and uplifting, thank you so we have our very own Rachel Carson amoungst us....

March 10, 2006 1:15 PM  
Anonymous Patsi said...

I'm so glad you posted this! The other morning I went outside around 5:30 and thought that the birds sounded "like spring."

March 10, 2006 3:40 PM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

lovely ...

March 11, 2006 5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks much for sharing this, POP!

I don't keep a diary, but I have my own clock, based on what happens in the Philadelphia area (I live near Boston now, but I'm in a really urban area here, so I don't see the diversity I did growing up in semi-rural areas).

Spring was announced by the prominent appearances of robins, winter's arrival was heralded by the appearance of juncos ("snowbirds") at the feeders. The brown thrasher makes it to Philadelphia, too, but it's not a common sight at my parents' feeder - just a few times per summer and only one summer in every few years.

Catbirds? That's another story altogether! They show up in mid to late spring and you can hear them all summer in the thicket at the edge of the lot, which buts against an abandoned bit of farmland going back to the wild.

Bit of trivia for you (& I apologize if you already know) - catbirds and mockingbirds are also thrashers. We up north get to listen to catbirds singing (although you have to look carefully in the thickets to watch them doing it). They sound like mockingbirds that have never quite figured out how to do it right.

- oddjob

March 13, 2006 6:00 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home