For the Birds: Sit or walk? Easy call

I pulled into the tire shop for my appointment the other day, handed over the keys and asked how long it would take. The nice gentleman said it would be at least an hour, but that I was welcome to sit in the waiting area and help myself to coffee.

It was an ideal late summer/early fall day and the fall migration was well underway, so I decided to take a walk instead.

I gave the guy my cell phone number, asked him to give me a call when the truck was ready, and set out to find the nearest place where I might find some birds.

I walked through a little shopping area and down a residential road before finding a cemetery. Cemeteries, of course, are good spots for finding birds as they are rare large plots of land with no houses, condos, or strip malls. There are some cemeteries, I have found, that are largely treeless and those are not great birdwatching spots. Most cemeteries, however, have a lot of trees and attract birds year-round.

Luckily enough, this was a very picturesque cemetery with rolling hills, plenty of mature trees, and dozens of historic grave markers. It didn’t take long for a gray catbird to pop out of the brush and perch on a fence nearby. It turned its back to me, raised its tail and showed off the rusty patch under its tail. You don’t always get a good look at that patch when spotting a catbird. The catbird changed positions on the fence a few times before disappearing into the brush as quickly as it had appeared only a few seconds earlier.

I didn’t see anything else right away, but I knew there was more around because I could hear Carolina wrens, blue jays, and cardinals calling from the brush. Eventually, I spotted a quick glimpse of one of the wrens as it darted from one bush to the next and also got some good looks at the blue jays squawking from a tree overhead. I never did find the cardinals, but I knew they were in there somewhere as their high-pitched chip calls never stopped.

A turkey vulture soared overhead and a small flock of mourning doves perched near the top of a distant evergreen. The mostly bare branches at the top of the tree gave away the doves’ whereabouts. A larger flock of chipping sparrows flew one by one from the ground to the safety of a nearby maple tree.

As I walked along the edge of the cemetery back towards the tire shop, I saw a small bird dart into the brush for cover. It took a while, but the bird eventually showed itself just enough to give me a short and partial glimpse. It was a male American redstart most likely stopping over at that spot on its southward migration. Or, perhaps the cemetery was its breeding territory and he will embark on his journey shortly.

I got back to the tire shop as they were moving my truck from the garage to a parking space. I wish I were always so lucky with my timing. 

I glanced at the waiting room area and some of the same people were still there staring at their phones or watching the home improvement show that was on the TV. 

I didn’t see anything too extraordinary on my walk, but in my opinion, it was time better spent. Being outdoors usually is. 

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