I went for a cold, wet walk today to celebrate the rain that was so long in coming. The river was high again, puddles were everywhere, and everywhere were birds enjoying them. Juncos, white-throated sparrows, red-headed woodpeckers, dun-colored finches. Kingfisher was chattering up and down the river, claiming the new water as his. The water seemed to move in layers- a colder layer on top moving more slowly than a warmer layer underneath, perceived by watching the pieces of duckweed moving at different depths. A frog moved near the bottom, I saw the whitish undersides of his bow-shaped legs pushing him into the muck; he’ll be burrowing in soon. I saw only three other people- a man outside to smoke a cigarette by the water, and on my way back two young black men bundled up in coveralls, fishing with spinning rods. Maybe hoping to catch trout for Thanksgiving.
And a lovely song sparrow (Melospiza melodia melodia) who was singing a song when I came upon him. A book that was my father’s, Birds of America, published in 1942, edited by Pearson and Burroughs, has wonderful descriptions of birds, and here’s what it says about the song sparrow:
“The Song Sparrow takes his singing very seriously. Almost invariably he presents his recital from the top of a bush or a fence post or a comparatively low tree. Always as he begins to sing he throws his head backward, and points his bill at an angle of about 45 degrees, and this position he retains until the song is finished. He seems intent upon sending his little prayer of thankfulness straight up to heaven, by the shortest route. Over and over again the sweet and sincere little petition is offered – and who can doubt that it is heeded? “