September 23, 2006

The unmown sojourn

The weather has cooled down to very pleasant in the daytime and chilly but not freezing at night. We've had a lot of rain.

I haven't spent much time outside lately and the grass is still growing, but the violets that have all summer covered the unmown parts are now collapsing.

I've been able to walk down into the furthest southeast corner of my property without fear of inadvertently stepping on a snake (I saw an 18-inch garter snake there last summer one day near the big maple tree, and it has made me cautious about walking in high-growth areas.)

I heard unfamiliar birdsong this morning. One song made me think of orioles, which I have not seen at this location, or perhaps it is a different call of cardinals.

A pair of cardinals showed up in our yard shortly after I first put out a feeder last year, and raised some young here, whom I've also seen at the feeders.

The cardinals generally sit atop a shepherd's crook from which two feeders hang. They announce themselves with a taunting Chit! Chit! Chit! to our cat, who sits inside watching through the side window and thinking of lunch... cardinal croquettes...? sparrow soufflé...? or perhaps titmouse tartare.

I have never before seen juvenile cardinals, and was at first unsure of them. Though my initial thought at first sight was "cardinal," there was no visible crest, the beak was grayish, and the only red was a slight tinge on the wings.

I am right to be unsure, though I thought I was familiar with most of the birds in my part of Connecticut, at least the suburban ones. Last winter, however, I met for the first time a Carolina wren, and had never heard of it before, so I was not certain this cardinal-like bird was not some unknown finch. The birdbook confirmed for me that it was a juvenile cardinal, however. Nice to see.

Over a period of just a few days, one juvie seemed to get redder, enough so that I could identify it as a male. I didn't get a good look at the other one, but suspect it's female. When do they leave their parents and set up their own territory?

Mourning doves have also begun congregating on the grass beneath my feeders to clean up. I haven't seen them here all summer. (The cat went wild when the first dove alighted on the ground. I imagine they are tasty.)