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Catbirds and lemon drops

I was passing by the trailer that serves as the office and lounge for the Hooves and Horns department; it was a pleasant day and the door was open. As I approached, a catbird flew in. I followed it in, and watched it as it perched on a chair in front of a computer, about 2 feet away from me. "Do you want this catbird in here?" I called to the keepers over in the office.

Like a fool I didn't photograph it while it was inside. When I spoke, it quickly flew out but not far, just outside the doorway onto these lawn chairs. I'm not sure what its plan was--probably it was just checking out the territory, seeing if there were food sources or nesting places.

The wooden rail fences around many of the Hooves and Horns exhibits sprout Bisporella citrina when it rains. The largest of these lemon drop mushrooms is about 1 mm across.

Noticing the year 05/07/08

After getting to work at 6 this morning, I was rewarded with my first Baltimore oriole sighting this morning (having heard them the past two evenings). Then, about an hour later, over the heads of a crowd of disinterested parties, my first catbird of the year! Alexis rejoices for catbirds with the same passion that she reviles juncos. And then, just a few minutes ago as I sat on the warm grass in the park with Jim and Charlie, we were buzzed by the swallows that live in the nearby stone bridges. Three firsts of the year in two days! Not bad at all.

Catbird fledgling

I heard this peeping from the bushes in front of my house. I investigated, and it kept going, and didn't even move away from me. It's a baby catbird. It's at the stage where it can't quite fly, but it can get around pretty well, and it's parents will still feed it. It may have left the nest too early. This is the age of the birds that people usually find near their homes and want to take care of. DON'T. After I shot this video my dog tried to eat the bird so we left.


I'd like to welcome the sudden burst of new friends who have added this journal. I hope you like reading about pigeons and rats and poison ivy and such. I also write about my life, complain about my job, review movies and music (usually obsolete) and ask for advice. Just thought I'd warn you. Nature abhors a text-only post, so please enjoy this catbird on knotweed picture I took today.

365 Urban Species. #128: Gray Catbird

Photos by cottonmanifesto

Urban species #128: Gray catbird Dumetella carolinensis

The halfway point between Vernal Equinox and Summer Solstice passed a week ago, so soon we should cease our obsessive tally of Signs of Spring. But not yet. My partner, Alexis (cottonmanifesto), has been most anxious for one particular sign, and I am happy to report the first catbird of Spring 2006, Boston. I can also report the second through fiftieth, as once this bird arrives in the city, they become among the most common avian residents. Their habit of perching fairly low (around eye-level) and the fact that they tolerate close approaches by humans makes them one of the most observable migratory birds. That is, if you choose to notice it. Being fully dark and mostly gray, and preferring thick shrubs rather than trees to perch in, catbirds may be completely passed by, by busy city people.

My first encounter with a catbird was in a postage stamp sized backyard in the Boston borough of Brighton. On the other side of a rusty chain link fence was a scrubby vacant lot, overgrown with ailanthus, knotweed, and bittersweet. I heard a curious "meow," that was strangely uncatlike. To my surprise, a gray bird with shining black eyes was perched right at the edge of the tangled wire and vines, within an arm's length; We regarded one another for short peaceful moment, before it moved on to its business. From then on I looked forward to visits from this bold yet sneaky neighbor.

The catbird can be seen eating fruit from ornamental shrubs, or turning over leaf litter for insects. At other times it can be heard singing its heart out, in a riot of snippets from other bird's songs. The catbird is in the mockingbird family, but unlike the northern mockingbird, which sings its sampled melodies in repetitions of three, the catbird rapidly blurts unrepeated phrases. The effect is similar to a scat singer, or a jazz soloist. Walking along the muddy river, one can pass by half a dozen of these performances, feathered buskers who never ask for change.


The Urban Pantheist

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July 2015



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