Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In the Catbird Seat

Years ago, I had a little dress that I just adored – it was a lovely dark grey heathered ponte knit, closely cut (in those days I was slimmer) with three-quarter sleeves and a deep V neck. As the V was a little too low-cut for daytime use and I wanted to be able to wear the dress to work, I sewed in a panel of black velvet that contrasted beautifully with the heathered grey and added an elegant touch.

I’m often reminded of that dress (and a slimmer me) when I see Grey Catbirds in our yard, for these slender birds have the same colors – a smooth dark grey set off by an elegant black velvet cap.

Catbirds have nested in the shrubberies at the edges of our yard for as long as we’ve lived here. They arrive early in the spring to set up housekeeping, looking for likely nesting spots and visiting the feeder area to see if the suet is still there (it is). The male’s squeaky-warbly-throaty-rambling song is one of my favorites, probably because I associated it so strongly with our own home and yard.

But of course it’s that endearing “mew, mew” call, from which the Catbird gets its name, that really charms me.

As they are usually deep in the brush, it’s a treat to see them as daily visitors to our suet feeders where we can see them closely. They eat directly from the suet feeder, but they also watch the woodpeckers hacking away at the suet, dropping to the ground to pick up the crumbs that fall there. They also enjoy the orange halves that I put out for the orioles. (The orioles never come to our feeders, though they do pass through the yard; the catbird, woodpeckers, and blue jays eat the oranges.)

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