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Monday, August 1, 2011

#13: Gray Catbird - 17 Acre Wood, NC

The Gray Catbird is an odd bird for me. Obviously, now that I’ve been birding a couple of years, I know that they’re everywhere. Just walking down the street will reward you with a little meeeeeew coming from a bush or the hedges lining the sidewalk. But it wasn’t always that way.

Back when I took Ornithology in college, Gray Catbird was one of those birds I’d never heard of (along with, of all things, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, but I guess that’s a story for another day). In any case, on one humid morning in mid-April, the Ornithology class was boarding the school vans to head down to Congaree Swamp in South Carolina, and out of the shrubs next to the parking lot came the familiar meeeeeew that I now know so well. Excited for a new lifer, I exclaimed its presence and the fact that I’d never seen one before, to which the professor turned to me and said incredulously: “Seriously?

Nowadays, of course, I know just where to find Gray Catbirds whenever I want to (well, whenever I want to during the summer). So on an otherwise gray and muggy day, James and I headed over to the 17 Acre Wood, a small greenway near the Hillandale Golf Course in Durham that’s just full of them. Sure, I’ve been known to see Black-billed Cuckoos, Bay-breasted Warblers, and Gray-cheeked Thrush at this spot during migration, but on the right day during the summer you can find over 25 Gray Catbirds amongst the shrubs and trees lining Ellerbe Creek. For whatever reason, they’re more abundant here than anywhere else I know of in the Triangle.

Gray Catbird - 17 Acre Wood, NC; 05/28/2010

Which is a good thing I guess, because James, like every other birder out there, needed his lifer Gray Catbird, and true to my word we found this guy right away. Not the greatest light, but heck, any look at a Catbird out in the open is a good look at a Catbird! Try as we might, we cannot get a good picture of a Catbird with the combination of a close-up Gray Catbird in good light and out in the open (I’ve seen good light but in the bushes, bad light and out in the open, and good light/out in the open but far away, but never all three!). Ah well. I suppose this’ll just have to do.

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