Autumn here brings the Gray Catbird. It starts with a cry or call that some say sounds like a baby or child, but most say sounds like a cat. Then come the large dark shapes rustling in nearby bushes, which usually carry berries. Sneaking up can lead to a sudden movement, a gray flash, and no more bird. Then, watching carefully as more and more appear one will stop momentarily and watch, or interrupt a meal of beautyberry to take a look.
Catbirds are part of the conversation among those of us who watch nature here. They merit mention in conversation when a person sees or hears the first of the season. As we walked along a boardwalk and passed another hiker they mention that “the catbirds are back”. An email a week or so ago from a friend confirming lunch added that the recent cold front brought the first catbird of the season for him. To clarify, actual cold fronts such as those from other climates experience are milder here. In this case the cold front meant the temperature fell from the mid-80s to the mid-70s and we had a relief from humidity for a few days.
The bird is beautiful in a monochrome sort of way; mostly slate gray with an attractive black cap, black eyes, and a russet color under its tail seen when it flies away or flicks the tail up. What I love most is its apparent curiosity. When feeling comfortable and safe, they sit on a branch or jump branch to branch, head cocked this way and that looking at us but more likely looking for something else to munch.
As we get toward May and June the numbers dwindle as they head to their summer homes. Occasionally one or two stay longer, maybe but eventually we stop hearing or seeing them, and the several month wait on our end starts until they return.