As Summer Slips Away

There is a persistent buzzing sound emanating from the tangle of rhododendron bushes that create a safe bird habitat tunnel on one side of my house. I pause and wait and am rewarded by a glimpse of something small and pert with an upright flag of a tail: a Bewick’s wren. As a novice birder I am pleased to have recognized that distinctive call that drew my attention to the otherwise small brownish gray bird nearly invisible in the thick leaves. Learning bird sounds, bit by bit, has added to my awareness and affection for these lively but elusive creatures. My ordinary-day life is made richer by these chance encounters; there is more life going on than I knew!

Birds are everywhere! As the cat follows me onto our front porch we both hear the scream of an eagle aloft in the sky as it wheels large circles above nearby Capitol Lake; we look at each other for reassurance and she elects to stay on the porch for now. I nod my agreement even though it would be fantastical if an eagle could dodge all the fences, bushes and other barriers to snatch the cat dozing by the tomatoes, but who wants to find out?

She elects to sprawl on the cushioned bench where she studiously has to ignore the frantic maneuvers of two hummingbirds squabbling over the hanging feeders. Their iridescent flashes are the lightning bolts to the thundering whirr of their wings as they chase each other through the garden. Quieter birds go about their business scratching for bugs, twittering to each other in my neighbor’s protective holly tree, and gathering in small groups on the wires above; mating and raising broods are done for the season. The only other sound comes from scrub jays pounding hazelnut shells on the roof, hopeful of the prize within.

It’s the in-taking pause of breath as one season begins its turn to the next, summer into autumn. Mornings are cooler, often misty and gray, but clearing into heat and high skies by afternoon. We awake now in darkness and clear away dinner dishes as night overtakes sunset. The birds already know all about the waning season; observing them and understanding their cycles offers us a calendar of days full of light and dark, growth and rest, the eternal round.

5 thoughts on “As Summer Slips Away

  1. This summer, we had an unusually loud hummer coming to our feeder. If I had to describe it, it would say his muffler wasn’t working. My husband and I can hear other hummers arriving with their approaching Star Trek scanner type sounds. But this guy sounded like a lawn mover. Why? I don’t know. He seemed proportioned, well feathered, in good health, and seemed to fly straight. Maybe he was a teenager looking for attention. It was great fun for us to exclaim before he got to us, “here he comes!”.

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  2. I’ve wondered about that too! Some sound like their feathers are slightly out of order, but maybe they are “kids” who attach playing cards to their bike wheels to add a little “thwap” to their sound….or whatever the hummingbird equivalent is!

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  3. Anne,

    I agree with Kathleen, That posting was beautiful!! So full of awareness of nature, light, and the early signs of the changing season.

    As for hummingbird stories, we’ve been watching a battle between “our” hummers and some yellow jackets. For a while the yellow jackets seemed to be winning, but there was no sign of them today. Thank you, Anne, for sharing your careful and informed observations. They encourage me to slow down and to try “see” more.

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