Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The sound you hear is not an injured animal!

When we first arrived here in Newport, Rhode Island, I was incredibly excited to get outside. I wanted to see, feel, and smell the GREEN that was everywhere. Everything was in bloom--hydrangeas were bursting in every yard. Roses were in full color, even in deserted lots. Maple trees were releasing their helicopter seeds to land wherever. And dogwood trees were blanketed in white and pink pinwheels of color.

Robins were everywhere--in the yard, trees, and on rooftops. Calling, singing, barking... it was magical. Other birds fit their conversations in the background--cardinals, sparrows, wrens, finches, crows, even fishcrows!! But there was one persistant greyish bird that would fly by, or just appear in the periphery of my sight. He was roughly the same size of our mockingbird, though certainly not as showy or gregarious. When I would try to get a better look the bird would fly away. I became more aware of this one--how elusive!

My gut said he was a catbird, but, in the beginning, I never saw his dandy black cap or his rufous undertail. Then he landed almost directly beside me as I smelled the roses bordering the driveway. I was able to capture this photo and thereby validate that he was indeed a catbird.

You cannot imagine my reaction to their call, incredibly different from their song. I can be doing anything and hear that call and immediately freeze to figure out where the animal in distress is located so I can run and SAVE them!!! I have to consciously remind myself that the sound is from a catbird and he is only sounding his location, not a cottontail or kitten that is in need of my help.

In the beginning of our stay, as I watched the birds come and go, I began to miss our mockingbirds. I missed watching them guard their territory against other mocker interlopers. I missed their day long songs. However, the more I listened, the more I heard the catbird songs that were similar, though not nearly as complex or varied, to our beloved mocker.

Oh, and here's something that made me giggle. I spotted my first catbird in Michigan several years ago. The "animal in distress" call led me to the edge of a thicket and finally to a sighting. The same call made me even more curious here. However, it never struck me, until recently, that the mew-call would be a direct reference to the bird's name. Mew call=catbird. Get it?

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