Monday, May 16, 2016

In the Catbird Seat on Block 832

My nature posts usually don't get very many page views, but I just have to share this anyway.

I was bemoaning the fact that we used to have a Mockingbird and a Catbird in our yard, but they were missing this year. So over the weekend I was entranced to hear the squeaky song of a Catbird coming from the huge Oak tree in front of our building!
Dumetella carolinensis -Brendan T. Byrne State Forest, New Jersey, USA-8.jpg
The Catbird is one of the mimic thrushes, along with the Mockingbird and Brown Thrasher. Its song reminds me of the lilting dawn music that Robins make, but the Catbird is like the choir member that has more enthusiasm than talent - rushing phrases, not quite hitting the notes, and veering off into weird improvisation. To a female Catbird, it's probably the equivalent of Sinatra crooning, but in the avian sound cloud it just sounds eccentric.

The Catbird does make sounds like a cat, a wistful "mew" that might make you search for a stray kitten in the shrubbery.

We get a lot of birds on Block 832, despite the urban hubbub from Park & Seventh. In early spring a big Raven appeared outside my window. I had to look in the Sibley's guide to verify, but the chunky beak distinguished it from a Crow.

We have flocks of Grackles, Crows, Blue Jays and Sparrows here, as well as pairs of Cardinals and Doves. They all face danger. Our feral cat population on the block is down currently, but we also have a Cooper's Hawk that kills birds (and squirrels) and a lightning-fast Sparrow Hawk that picks off the smaller birds. I figured these predators had done away with the Catbird and Mockingbird that came back every year.

My wish now is that we get another Mockingbird to sing us through the summer nights. These birds are real hams, always sitting at the highest place possible while regaling us with endless imitations of their feathered colleagues. They also like to make dramatic attacks on interlopers in their territory, including humans.

OK, enough about birds - back to compiling my Field Guide to Plainfield Politicians.



  1. I always love your nature posts! I haven't seen any catbirds in my neighborhood although I've seen woodpeckers. They aren't quite as relaxing. You forgot to mention your black vulture visitors.

  2. Love the post, Bernice. It's a part of nature I have yet to explore.