Each bird I see has something in its beak: wren—a streamer of dried grass, chickadee—a seed, towhee—a bundle of stalks, grackle—a millipede.
I feel it before I see it: in the half-light, the intense green of new leaves. The sound of field sparrows, towhees, spring peepers, rain.
A towhee sits on a high branch at sunrise, his breast puffed out against the cold. His rufous feathers briefly match the color of the ridge.
Most of the maples have dropped their leaves since I was last on the porch, but the towhee’s breast still flickers rust-red in the lilac.
A towhee by the springhouse sings an inverted version of his usual song. The first purple bergamot is in bloom—a court jester’s absurd hat.
Bright and windy. A towhee flies in and out of a multiflora rose bush seemingly without a care, as if it weren’t studded with sharp hooks.
Overcast. The softly glowing reds and yellows, the hum of crickets, even the normally annoying call of a towhee all inspire nostalgia.
Whither the thrush whose ethereal notes woke me at dawn? A male towhee flies up to a sunlit branch and takes a shit, singing.
An accelerated tapping on the roof—who ordered rain? One bird says Konkerlee, another, Drink your tea. Takes me a second to sort them out.
The thin forsythia at the woods’ edge is in bloom at last. Two towhees battle over territory: rival renditions of the same six-note trill.
The downpour eases, and the cattail leaves stop dancing. A burst of bird calls from within the dogwood thicket: waxwings, towhees.
As the plane fades in the distance, they return: a towhee, two lethargic vireos, a chipmunk’s water-drip-steady clucks, the garden cricket.
Two male towhees trade tweets from opposite sides of the yard. At the top of the dead cherry tree, a goldfinch swivels back and forth.
The female towhee chitters until the male flies in, mates, and flies off. Again. Once more. Then she craps and goes back to foraging.
Light rain. A female towhee carries load after load of dead grass into a rosebush while a yearling male redstart sings and noshes in the treetops.
Gone is the persistent “tweet?” of the breeding season: at first light, the towhee’s call falls like a declarative, flat and final.