Southwest Florida is putting her heat back in place. The mornings are cool and damp, each day more than the day before. I sip my coffee out on the lanai to be present to the dawn chorus: the “wacheer-wacheering” of Cardinals, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks calling like a wild band of squeaky toys and flying a sloppy “V” formation similar to Canada geese, the mysterious rustling of Something in the woods. The next door neighbor clued me in to what was making all those cone-shaped holes in the yard: armadillos hunting for breakfast.
White-eyed Vireos sound to me like they are saying: “S**T, see if I care, S**T,” which is kind of a rude way to remember the song of such a lovely bird but I can promise you birders use weirder tricks than that to help them identify a bird by ear. I actually learned that mnemonic while on a Cape May field trip led by a nationally known bird expert, Pete Dunne, so there you go, I learned from the best.
Palm Warblers pump their tails as they flit through the branches, a perpetually annoyed Mockingbird rails at the school buses roaring by, then flutters off to chase another of its own kind. Northern Parulas drip from the trees, another Mockingbird just labored by with a 6-inch twig in its bill. The Red-shouldered Hawks spy on us daily from the telephone wires overhead-they drive Toby crazy- until the Kestrel chases the hawk away. The Red-bellied Woodpeckers jab holes in the spoiled oranges left on an unkempt tree slumped between our house and the one next door. For a week, a Chuck-Will’s Widow (a BIRD, not a surviving spouse) has been calling from the dark woods. I finally saw it, barely, on the road the other night, after dusk. The call it makes, over and over all night long sounds like it’s saying its name, I was thrilled to record it but for the life of me, cannot figure out how to post my own recording here, dang. Click on the name and the link will send you to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, whose Macauley Library has the largest archive of wildlife sounds and videos in the world.
The back yard of our rental property is a mini-jungle, a sample of the larger tracts Toby and I walk past every day. Palmettos everywhere with their switchblade fans, there are more invasive Brazilian Pepper trees than Florida Republicans, there is some nameless pink-leaved shrub back there along with Mexican Petunias, and a gangly old cactus loafs in the middle of them. God knows what else is back there. If you look low and to the left of the neighbor’s fence, you will see a clearing and a path from the comings and goings of the neighborhood bobcat.