Tag Archives: Gray Catbird

Fire and water in the Savannas

I brake for gopher tortoises.

This one was crossing a sandy road in the section of the Savannas Preserve State Park off Walton Road, in St. Lucie County.

I parked at the Canoe Launch area. The launch ramp itself, pictured above, is closed (for repairs?) right now, but there is a small beach where it looks possible to launch a canoe or kayak.

The visitor center near the entrance is also not open right now.

Common Gallinule among the lilies.

This spot provides access to one of the park’s basin marshes. The 7,000 acres of Savannas Preserve State Park protects southeast Florida’s largest freshwater marsh system.

You can see the Canoe Launch on both these maps, posted to a bulletin board there. A few days ago I took a slow walk on the Yellow Trail, over two bridges, and looped back on the White Trail, around two miles of travel.

It looks like there was a prescribed burn maybe a few weeks ago. In Florida, we burn it before the lightning fires do.

My first “captured” bird was this Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis.

The name Dumetella is based upon the Latin term dūmus (“thorny thicket”; it thus means approximately “small thornbush-dweller” or “small bird of the thornbushes”.

I got a good look at a brown anole, near the trail. Males have dewlaps.

Brown anoles are native to Cuba and the Bahamas and an invasive species in Florida, taking over habitat especially from the native green anoles.

The weather was beautiful, warm with a light southeast breeze.

The lingering scent of the burn smelled like someone had a big campfire the night before.

Regular fires keep the understory open, preventing shrubs from becoming dominant in the pine flatwoods and scrub.

Two roads diverged in a burnt woods and I took the Yellow Trail.

I really appreciate the people who design and build bridges and boardwalks through Florida’s wet spots, so we can get a good look without getting wet.

Small flocks of Palm Warblers crossed my path a few times.

They wag their tails up and down constantly and spend a lot of time hopping around on the ground, which is weird for warblers.

I think this yellow-flowering plant near wetlands is in the tickseed/ coreopsis family.

The view from near the second footbridge.

Serene, right?

Looking down at lily pads. Their colors now, in the dormant season, remind me of autumn leaves.

This trail is still a little wet in the dry season. My daughter and I turned around here a couple of months ago, when the puddles extended too far and deep across this way.

New growth after fire.

This eerie landscape held signs of hope.

A burn actually promotes the flowering of saw palmettos.

Returning on the White Trail, one side had been burned and the other one not.

Antidote.

For still there are so many things that I have never seen: in every wood in every spring there is a different green. – J.R.R. Tolkien

Nature walk in Boston

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Animatronic robin.

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Just kidding.

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We went for a walk at Arnold Arboretum in Boston on Saturday and so did this big old snapping turtle.

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It crossed the paved pathway, traveling from one pond to another, while about 15 people stopped to observe and wonder.

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“That is the prettiest color,” said my daughter Laura. We were in town to celebrate her graduation from MassArt, BFA in Painting.

The nest, featuring robin’s-egg-blue eggs, was down low right next to the path.

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This Red-winged Blackbird has a distinguished and distinguishing shoulder patch of red and yellow.

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Tree Swallow on a nest box.

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Yellow Warbler in a thicket by a pond.

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Close-up of the Tree Swallow. Such a nice deep blue iridescence on its back and head.

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Over by the bonsai collection, a Common Grackle feeds its kid.

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Is that a potato chip or a moth?

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Ahhh!

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Chipping Sparrow hopping around in front of us, sort of camouflaged yet not.

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So this is where some of my winter friends have flown to!

In the artist’s palette of bird colors, this bird is Catbird Gray.

Haney Creek list

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Green Heron!

Not an uncommon bird, but hard to spot. This is my first sighting since we moved to Florida.

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I went for a walk at Haney Creek yesterday late morning. I kept track of the birds I saw and heard and posted an eBird checklist for the first time in a while.

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The first to greet me: a couple of Gray Catbirds.

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Meow.

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Next, a non-bird.

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A slow-moving Gopher Tortoise was grazing at the edge of the path.

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On the fence at the dog run, an Eastern Phoebe.

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“Phoebe!” it said, helpfully.

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I expected to see more wading birds in the wetlands but only came up with this immature Little Blue Heron.

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That is a school just beyond the wetlands.

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The Little Blue is starting to get its adult colors.

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Why do they start off white and turn slaty blue-gray? I don’t know.

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On the hunt.

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Mirror, mirror.

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Last time I was at the dog park at Haney Creek (two days before), there were a pair of Sandhill Cranes and a pair of Great Egrets having a turf battle. I did not have my camera. I was hoping to see them this day but no luck.

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Next I walked a trail through sand pine scrub.

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There were little birds calling but I only got a good look at a few, including this Yellow-rumped Warbler.

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There have been a ton of butterbutts around this winter. I’m almost getting sick of them.

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More info on Florida sand pine scrub, an endangered subtropical forest ecoregion.

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Another gopher tortoise out for a stroll.

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Finally an animal that can’t outrun me, or fly away.

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Lots of Northern Cardinals around.

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I think it’s nesting season for them.

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Chestnut cap helps identify this (out of focus) Palm Warbler.

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Who doesn’t love a Green Heron??

Catbirds are songbirds

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Gray Catbird perches on the birdbath behind Audubon of Martin County yesterday at the Possum Long Nature Preserve in Stuart, FL.

I am still learning year-round vs. winter residents. Looks like catbirds are snowbirds in Florida.

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Resident along the Atlantic Coast; otherwise migratory. Catbirds from across North America spend winters along the Gulf Coast from Florida through Texas and all the way down Central America and the Caribbean.

They would arrive at our old house in coastal New Hampshire in early May, when tree flowers were blooming and insects were out. Contrary to popular opinion they were not shy. But I did serve them a fine feast at the feeders.

Scroll down for catbird photos from days of yore: GRAY CATBIRD – Amy’s Birds.

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Catbirds are mimids, members of the Mimidae family which includes mockingbirds and thrashers, notable for their vocalizations and ability to mimic other birds and outdoor sounds.

Yesterday I attended an Audubon class on Songbirds and Woodpeckers. Catbirds are songbirds or, more scientifically, Passeriformes or perching birds. Of the 10,000 species of birds in the world, about half of them are “songbirds” possessing the vocal cords and brains that allow them to sing, not just vocalize or call.

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From Cornell Lab Bird Academy: How and Why Birds Sing.

I went outside to get the Sunday paper during this morning’s dawn chorus and heard and saw two noisy catbirds in the bushes across the street.

If I could understand the language of the birds, I might hear them saying: “Write about us, write about us! We are leaving soon to fly north for the summer. See you next fall.”

Grab bag of May birds

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Brown-headed Cowbird at the top of the dawn redwood in our front yard.

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Gray Catbird at the edge of the red maple swamp out back.

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Common Yellowthroat takes off.

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Tree Swallow perches on the martin house “antenna.”

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Eastern Phoebe holds still for a moment.

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Red-winged Blackbird sings atop a maple at the edge of the swamp.

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Eastern Towhee, female, scuffling in leaves at the edge of the field.

Catbirds return

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A couple of days ago the catbirds came back.

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Shy at first, they are growing bolder – making acrobatic forays to the suet cakes and observing our behavior. We are quickly being classified as reasonably harmless food providers.

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This catbird is pictured out past the pond and big garden, at the beginning of the red maple swamp woods. They do seem to like this area, I remember from last year too, maybe because there are winterberries growing wild there.

I saw 5 or 6 catbirds yesterday. Maybe some are just passing through. Last year we had a couple of pairs that nested nearby and visited feeders regularly.

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I heard catbirds before I saw them. Their “catty mew” is distinctive.

If you’re convinced you’ll never be able to learn bird calls, start with the Gray Catbird. Once you’ve heard its catty mew you won’t forget it. Follow the sound into thickets and vine tangles and you’ll be rewarded by a somber gray bird with a black cap and bright rusty feathers under the tail. Gray Catbirds are relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, copying the sounds of other species and stringing them together to make their own song.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology video: Catbird Mimicry