Evasive

 
 

Since the end of April, when I first noticed the return of the catbird pair, I’ve been trying to take a decent photo of one or the other. It’s a pursuit I start every year, and so far it has failed miserably. I see them constantly—on the hanging branch of the cedar, in the birdbath, on the fence, in the gravel outside the porch, in the garden wherever I’m digging, and most prominently perched (for just a second!) on top of the dead Japanese maple. They are the most active birds in this season of bird activity. They seem to taunt me, and I swear they know what they’re doing. They land within feet of me, cock an eye in my direction, and fly the instant I point the camera. Even when I’m lurking behind the corner of the house or waiting with camera aimed from my bedroom window, they move so quickly I only get a record of their grey blur. Named for their mewing cat-like call, grey catbirds also have a fascinating repertory of bird sounds. Like their mockingbird cousins, they skip through their playlist at the least provocation, but unlike mockingbirds, they string the phrases together only one at a time. Since they migrate each winter as far south as the Caribbean and Central America, I get to hear bird calls I’ve never heard before. I suppose I should just be content observing their energetic movements and listening to their lively concerts in my overgrown garden, but I’m not giving up my quest for a photo. I’m now looking into a GoPro with a tripwire that I can rig up in the birdbath...

Instead of posting any of my fuzzy photos, I’m relying on this detail from an 1810 sketch by the master, John James Audubon. It appears in an inspiring new book, Explorers Sketchbooks: The Art of Discovery & Adventure.