Thursday, June 19, 2008

Spring Begins To Slip Away

Songs of second and third courtships bring the last days of June to a close. After spring's first frenzied courtships and nestings, the feathered world quietens down for a few weeks. The chores of incubation and the feeding of young take their toll from the adult bird's free-spirited life. But now the males are belting out their courting songs from dawn to dusk, anxious to get on with the busy life of a second family.

After this recurrence of activity, the birds usually cease singing until the next spring. About mid to late July most summer visitors go into molt and cease their singing. During this time summer visitors and permanent residents become almost totally silent.

The scrappy little Carolina wren belts out a song occasionally, singing more often than any other bird of this season. (Silence must be pure torture to him . . . he is such a vocal ball of feathers.) The blue jay might squall a few notes and doves continue to coo, the pewee continues his plaintive, sad song, and the wood thrush gives fewer evening concerts. The lessening of song is a sure sign the days of spring are slipping away into summer.

The brown thrasher is singing lustily and I see why. The female is sneaking twigs into a dense photinia shrub. Looking like sleek ballerinas in gray tutus, two mockingbirds gracefully soft-toe it down the driveway. But now scientists tell us it is two males bidding for territory. Evidently thinking of another nest and four more mouths to feed this summer.

Towhees are singing in the late June performance. They nest as many as three times in one season. They are with us year round. I have just seen a pair pack a brood off on their own. Now they are busy on another nest. Several years ago, a pair nested in the photinia hedge in September.

I hear the robin's cheery song each day now that he's building next door in a dogwood tree. Soon his bubbling song will cease for the season. Chasing blue jays burn green leaves with blue fire. After the chase, I watch the male feed the female. This is a courtship gesture used by many birds. He's probably courting her for the second nest and the last of the season.

Whistling loud and clear, the cardinal, no doubt, has another family in mind and before long I should find the nest in some thorny shrub or rose vine.

Soon after the active days of June are over, summer visitors hide in the wooded lot and dense borders of our yard and change into their traveling duds. Now about all we'll hear from these guys is a half-hearted short song, but usually we hear only chips and chirps.

Though summer is but a few days away, already preparations for another season have begun.