Background Switcher (Hidden)

Yellow-breasted Chats are Back!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

 Mayday! Mayday! The birds are all here and I'm overwhelmed. Why can't they spread it out a bit? Today, we welcomed indigo buntings, magnolia, Tennessee, chestnut-sided, blue-winged and Nashville warblers; black-billed cuckoos, rose-breasted grosbeaks and scarlet tanagers; a pair of belted kingfishers, wood thrushes and red-eyed and yellow-throated and white-eyed vireos, to name just some. Ones in boldface arrived today.

Oh, and yellow-breasted chats. See, just one of those would have been plenty. 

But too much of everything is just enough. I need a miracle, every day.

The yellow-breasted chats woke me up on May 1 as it got light, arguing and yelling from the tangle to the east and the tangle to the west. the former owner of our house was from the north of England. "Those are the rudest birds!" he said. "They fly over making the most awful noises!" Yes, indeed.

Chats have bred in our yard all but one of the 21 years we've lived here. For reasons unknown they deserted us in 2010, to come back in 2011. Now I hold my figurative breath until I know they're staying.

I look at our yard and overgrown orchard and know the changes are happening, that they're more chickadee habitat than bluebird habitat now, more redstart than prairie warbler habitat. Some birds go, and others replace them, and I guess I have to be OK with that, but please, please, chats! Don't leave us.

When chats sing they shoot their necks out and that glorious sunflower-yellow throat pulses and belches with a shot of stunning color.

Klook. Shep shep shep shep. Whoit? Geh geh geh geh geh. TSH TSH TSH TSH TSH TSH TSH TSH!
Yeh yeh yeh yeh yeh! Klook. Whoit? 

And so it goes.

And it's even better by moonlight, because when they sing at night you know they're sleeping here too.

There are ten million things I should be doing right now. Packing for the New River Birding and Nature Festival this week, where I'll be speaking and singing with The Rain Crows and leading field trips starting Friday May 5.  (thank you Kathy in Delray!!) Oops! That's tomorrow! I'm packing hundreds of pounds of books on the back of my carrier on my tiny Subaru. Sometimes I miss the Exploder.

Scrambling up more books to sell.
Planting the gladiolas and tuberoses which are sitting in muck buckets in the garden.
Potting the overgrown and sad bonsais who are languishing in their winter pit, 20 days late.
Running to town to do ten errands in two hours.

But I can't ignore the chats. They demand my attention and they get my unbridled adoration.

Well, almost all of it. Mether, are you coming? You have been with that birdie for a long time. And you and I are both soaked. You have a lot of things to do.

I know, Chet Baker. I'm coming. But there's this wood thrush singing...


I was standing in our driveway - on the way to get the mail - listening to the wood thrush yesterday afternoon and Bugs kept saying "come ON! What are you DOING?" But, the birds Bugs, they sound so nice!

Chats always surprise me, because I rarely see them. Thank goodness I can still mostly hear them on those rare occasions when we are at the same spot at the same time.

Are you really going to make those poor people at the New River Festival wait until May 25?! JK, JZ.

Kathy in Delray Beach.

Posted by Anonymous May 3, 2012 at 5:55 AM

Ah, it's got to be tough to leave all the excitement at home - even if you're headed for more. Interesting to hear about the change of habitat you're witnessing. Change is hard, isn't it?

Bon voyage and thanks for that Grateful Dead lyric in there - I've got a nice little groove for the day now :)

nice mnemonic rendition of the Chat call, even if completely different from Sibley's version! (yours has a Whipple dialect I guess)

That is a serious yellow. Breathtaking bird. Brand new to me. Thx for a lovely post. Your last line reminds me of a poem I used to read to my first graders,

by Richard LeGallienne

I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,
And a butterfly flitted across the field,
And all the leaves were calling me.
And the wind went sighing over the land,
Tossing the grasses to and fro,
And a rainbow held out its shining hand,
So what could I do but laugh and go?

@dkm, what a lovely poem! And Julie, I've never heard of a chat. It's beautiful. All those birds you've been seeing--WOW! I'm glad Chet Baker goes birding with you. Such a sweetheart he is. Thanks for a great post!

Never even heard of a chat--so thank you for the introduction. Boy, is he impressive.

[Back to Top]