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Posts Tagged ‘catbird’

This Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) had to extend its wings for balance as it reached down to grab a berry on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A second or so the catbird seemed to be planning its angle of attack on the berry as you can see in the second photo below. I am always amazed at the degree to which a bird can calibrate its actions to keep from falling off of a branch on which it is perched.

Judging from the range maps in my bird guides, Gray Catbirds are in my area throughout the year, but I rarely see one. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The Gray Catbird belongs to the genus Dumetella, which means “small thicket.” And that’s exactly where you should go look for this little skulker.” As you may be able to tell from the photos, the catbird remained pretty well-hidden in the vegetation and I consider myself lucky to have gotten these relatively unobstructed shots of the bird.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I seem to be having problems recently getting unobstructed views of small birds. Although the leaves are falling from the trees at an increasingly rapid rate, there are still plenty of them to block my view. I have to admit, however, that the colors and texture of the fall foliage can sometimes provide additional visual interest to a shot of a perched bird.

I spotted this Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The catbird’s direct look suggests that he had spotted me too. Normally I do no photograph birds head-on like this, but in this case I like the way that it gives the catbird a comical, almost cartoonish look.

I like to shoot whatever captures my attention and have a hopeful expectation that the images will turn out ok. I have found that most often when I shoot what I like, I like what I shoot.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’ve read that a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) makes a distinctive cat-like mewing sound, but I don’t recall ever having heard a catbird make any sound whatsoever. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Gray Catbirds can also copy the sounds of other species and string them together to make their own song that can last as long as ten minutes.

Even without hearing its song, I was able to spot this Gray Catbird earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As is most often the case with catbirds, this one was in thick vegetation, but I did manage to get a relatively clear shot of its head and body.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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My bird books say that Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), like this one that I spotted on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, make catlike mewing sounds, which accounts for the name. When I initially heard this bird, it was making a variety of different sounds, none of which sounded like a cat, and I thought it was a Northern Mockingbird. It was only when I zoomed in and saw that the bird had less distinctive markings than those of a mockingbird that I realized that it was a different species. Catbirds do, however, belong to the same family Mimidae (also known as mimic thrushes) as Northern Mockingbirds and Brown Thrashers, like the one that I featured in a recent posting.

When I was growing up, I remember hearing the expression “sitting in the catbird seat” and I learned that it meant being in an enviable or advantageous position. I never really wondered, though, what this had to do with a catbird and only today did I search for the origins of the expression. According to the website phrases.org.uk, “Catbirds seek out the highest perches in trees to sing and display. The allusion to that is most likely to be the derivation of the term. It may also be the source of an earlier term with much the same meaning – ‘sitting pretty‘.”

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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