This fall I caught my first glimpse of a Great Blue Heron. I just so happened to be looking out my picture window and gazing through the trees to the creek below. It was thrilling to watch it move along the creek, hunting in the tall grasses. I knew that this one would be on my art “to do” list soon. And so here it is, all finished now. I hope I was able to capture it’s essence, in all it’s magnificence.
“Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” – Genesis 1:20
Last year around this time I wrote a post about the Gray Catbird’s fall migration from my property, entitled “Farewell, Gray Catbird.” And so I feel this year needs a revisit to the post now that another Gray Catbird exodus is upon me.
The 2019 spring bird migration brought with it a slightly different dynamic than did 2018. The places on my property they previously seemed to like the most were in direct correlation to the fact that I hadn’t had the opportunity to do some badly needed plant control and forest management. I purposely approached many of these areas with an easy hand this year, but it still seemed rather severe when I looked upon the freshly opened spaces in early spring. Would the same birds come back to the area? What about my beloved Gray Catbirds? Soon, time and its spring arrivals proved that all my worrying had been unnecessary. The Gray Catbirds arrived! And then they arrived some more. And then they had broods. And by July the entire property seemed to be filled with their flicking tails and noisy mews.
These birds are known to be “elusive” and “hard to spot”. My Gray Catbirds have definitely overcome their shy tendencies. Every morning this summer as I worked in my gardens around the house, a Catbird would fly out of the woods just to perch on a nearby tree and mew at me. As they grew more adamant in their noise making (and annoying), often I would remind them that they inhabit my property and life here was pretty good for them, so they just needed to relax. Using pragmatism didn’t avail to them much, so in the end, I told them they were just going to have to deal with my presence. They responded with the now broken record response of “mew” and provided me with a summer full of fun (and noisy) bird watching.
So here I am again. It’s mid-September and the inevitable is approaching. I’m remaining diligent about recording my bird sightings each day so I don’t miss it. It happens so quietly, like an exhale. One day it’s an unusually warm autumn afternoon and all of nature is around; the Phoebe is dancing in mid air for its catch, a few Hummingbirds zoom by, and I spot a Painted Lady fluttering among the Autumn Joy Sedum. Amid the activity I can always hear Catbird calling. Calling to me, I imagine, bidding farewell to another splendid year. It sure was a good one this year! I stand and listen and wait, and take everything in. The next morning brings the familiar low dark clouds of Wisconsin autumn, and as I walk through the edges of the forest, the mews have become silent. They are all gone now.
Farewell Gray Catbird, again farewell.
“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” – Matthew 6:26
August has drawn to a close and the rhythm of the woods is in flux once again. Since moving to the homestead, August has quickly become one of my favorite months of the year. Months of hard work and sweat are realized as the bounty of summer is at it’s finest in Wisconsin. Most of the birds are done nesting (So, I can finally take that sparrow’s nest out of the shutters!), and at last the wildflowers start blooming from the plants that look so weedy most of the summer. Best of all, the spring explosion of bugs and weeds has finally reached manageable levels and we get the occasional day of humidity reprieve. We are blessed to have quite an array of birds around our property, and a habitat that naturally attracts and sustains both permanent and migratory species. Since our time here, I’ve also grown quite fond of the Gray Catbird. Interestingly, they are considered to be elusive to most, though they are quite the opposite here and enjoyable to watch flitting about the yard and house. This year we even had one nest in a hydrangea bush right next to the porch, keeping a watchful and curious eye on me everyday as I would water the plants around her.
Now, with the change of seasons at hand and the forthcoming migration south of many bird species, including Gray Catbird, for the first time my heart is reluctant to watch August slip into September. For the time being, I still hear one or two Catbirds mew at me when I walk close to the edge of the woods; though their playing in the yard has ceased, I no longer see them dance around the house with tails flickering, and the constant chatter from the thickets are all but gone. In the spring it will all be renewed again, but for the moment, August has ended, and I can’t help but feel a bit like I’m saying a long goodbye to an old friend. So, till spring, farewell Gray Catbird.
This painting was fun to work on, as this guy has become one of my favorite birds here. The Gray Catbird migrates to SW Wisconsin every spring, and our property has become a favorite hangout of theirs. Dark gray in color, they are easy to miss among the more colorful bird species, but if you take the time to watch and listen, you’ll find they make up for it in character. Their characteristic “cat-like” call is where they get their namesake, and while walking through the woods, or even down my drive, I always know where to spot them because I can hear them first. And if you ever get the opportunity to observe one up close, the subtleties in their color are a beautiful understatement, and they might just have a berry in their mouth!