Sunday, June 02, 2013

`A Little Boy's Kite with a Long Tail'

While minding a friend’s cats this week, I’ve been filling the feeders in her backyard with seed. White-wing doves perch on the power lines, waiting for me to finish. By the time I’m back inside and peering out the kitchen window, they’re picking at the feast and joined by squirrels. After scooping out the litter box I look again and see two blue jays and a female cardinal have invited themselves to the banquet. The squirrels work the feeders, the birds take the ground. In the crepe myrtle near the fence I notice an elegant flash of gray – a gray catbird, Dumetella carolinensis, a bird beautiful within a narrow palette. He held back, reluctant to join the gourmandizing. By bird standards he appeared patient, even relaxed, content to wait his turn, “in the catbird seat.” In Houston, we see them less often than Thoreau did in Massachusetts. One sighting, on this date, June 2, in 1860, was memorable: 

“A catbird has her nest in our grove. We cast out strips of white cotton cloth all of which she picked up and used. I saw a bird flying across the street with so long a strip of cloth, or the like, the other day, and so slowly that at first I thought it was a little boy’s kite with a long tail.”

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