Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gray Catbirds at Clear Creek Metro Park in Southeast Ohio

Birding Hocking Hills in Southeastern Ohio
...continued from the post on Black and White Warblers.
Gray Catbirds…I just love it when I hear that distinctive “mew” from the bushes. Here in Cincy, I don’t hear it that often. Gray Catbirds are on the Little Miami Trail, but usually just one or two at a time (and not every time I go), but in Hocking Hills, they were everywhere! And predictably, just like at an earlier visit at Strouds Run State Park, the little piggies were never too far from the blackberry bushes!

If you lived in the Hocking Hills area, you might become immune to these gorgeous birds because they are so numerous, but for me, seeing them all over the place was a treat.

Walking on the Creekside Meadows trail, it was no surprise when I heard that familiar mew and saw my first of many Gray Catbirds take off for cover in the thick, grapevine-cluttered brushy edge. What did surprise me, however, was the repertoire of lovely whistled song that followed. Being a mimic like the Northern Mockingbird and Brown Thrasher, Catbirds can let loose with lots of different songs, and I've heard a few of them on the Little Miami River trail, but they were never as pretty as those I heard at Clear Creek Metro Park! All day long and in different locations in the park I would suddenly hear an unfamiliar song coming from the brush. I wouldn't recognize the notes, but I would recognize the pitch…and soon enough I’d see that familiar gray shadow singing behind leaves in a tangle of branches.

This photo shows a little of that bright flash of red feathers under his tail.

I saw more Gray Catbirds in five days in Hocking Hills than I've seen in my life in Cincinnati!

This is how I would normally see the Catbirds. Hidden away in the brush, skulking behind leaves.

With all the berry eating I've been talking about, you would think I would have been able to capture lots of the cutie-pies plucking off the juicy fruits and swallowing them down, but I couldn't. When eating, the Catbirds preferred the privacy of the hedge, being secretive and shy, but this fellow messed up. He was so into his juicy red fruit he didn't see me standing just below him, and me.....panicked....and hurrying to catch him in the act, caught only so-so photos.

Look at that juicy red blackberry in his bill.
If you look closely you can see red berry juice
all over his bill and the feathers around his mouth...
A total berryfest.

A bummer of a photo, but you can see the red
berry juice around his bill and in his feathers...and
you can see where it's run all down his chest. It
cracks me up, and lets you see how crazy
these birds were for the fruit.

27 comments:

Nick S said...

Lovely shots Kelly. The top one is great.

Abe Lincoln said...

I never thought, maybe that's where my blackberries go. I have seen a robin eat one once but that was the only time. I even have a robin that spends most of every day picking spilled sunflower chips up out of the grass and eating them. Gray Catbird. I have seen and photographed one of them here.

Your first photo is just stunning.

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Roy said...

Lovely photos of the Catbird Kelly. Its a bit like our blackbird in size and shape.

Chris Petrak said...

For a gray, rather "nondescript" bird, the Gray Catbird is beautiful. I love them too - and am glad they are common summer residents in my neighborhood. Good photos!

dAwN said...

Great shots Kelly,a great bird to see! love the berry and berry juice pics.

Here in Ct they are pretty much around every corner as well.
I always enjoy seeing and hearing them..and they have fooled me many a time with there song.
I love the black cap and the vent of rufous..
Now I must be used to them because I ten not to try and photograph them..
thanks for reminding me of a special bird.
Next time ..my camera will be ready!

JKoenig said...

Your pictures are always so sharp and beautiful....and another bird tht I have never seen although I think they are supposed to be around here.

Adrienne in Ohio said...

Once again, your shots are beautiful. Every time I read one of your posts, I think to myself "I need to get down there and check that out!" Your excitement for these birding locations is contagious, Kelly! Great post.

NCmountainwoman said...

Great photographs of the catbirds. Interesting, isn't it...we are all excited by birds that we don't see that often. I also loved your post on your willow tree. I hope it continues to survive for a while.

Dave Lewis said...

I LOVE Gray Catbirds! i was going to blog about them today...you beat me to it.
See ya!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Great photos of the Catbirds, Kel. I don't think I've ever seen one. IF I have, WELL--I didn't recognize it. Most of our gray birds are Tufted Titmice.

Have a wonderful day. We are going to the Smokies today.
Hugs,
Betsy

Vickie said...

Gorgeous catbird visit! Have yet to see one of these even though I've heard their mews.

NicoleB said...

I doubt I've ever seen this birdie, nor heard it.
I love the first shot. It looks like he's smiling :)

Montanagirl said...

Great series, Kelly. Such a neat bird, but not when eating fruit! (lol).

Roy said...

Great shots, Kelly. We're aswarm with Gray Catbirds here - in the leafy sections of town, down on the Cliff Walk, and of course in Ballard Park. They're in the same family as Mockingbirds, and while Mockers sing everybody else's songs in endless loops, Catbirds just babble long strings of sonic nonsense. I think Ornette Coleman must have been listening to them when he came up with the idea of "free jazz". Heh, heh! It's free all right!

Laure Ferlita said...

What a messy little bird! Too funny to see the berry juice running down his chin! Guess I never thought about birds being messing that way before. Have certainly witnessed the other way!;~)

Tabib said...

Beautiful bird, never mind the gray colour.
Yes the fist one is great photography.

E said...

Very lovely pics, went to search for his song and here it is...
http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Gray_Catbird/sounds

Great story. Congrats. Hugs grandes. :)

Nature As Is said...

Wow I have never seen a Catbird before they are very beautiful. I loved how you captured the light it it's eyes so lovely. Wonderful work Kelly

holdingmoments said...

Great shots Kelly. What a beauty.

Warren Baker said...

Soon be time for our Blackberries to be devoured kelly, hopefully by some rare migrant on my patch!
Glad you got the rain - d'ya want some wind too, plenty going!!

Jenny said...

Lovely photos Kelly, specially as you say, they can be such skulking birds.

Mary said...

I think Catbirds are wonderful...so pretty and your photos are perfect! I love the red patch under the tail, but always have trouble catching it in a photo. I didn't realize they were such berry thieves..great shot!

ShySongbird said...

Lovely photos again Kelly, another lovely bird which we don't have here. Sorry not to have commented lately, I have got all behind with everything.

Elaine said...

Lovely photos of yet another bird that doesn't come to Alaska. We are planning a trip down the Alcan and over your way in October. If you have any suggestions for good spots to visit at that time of year I would love to hear them.

Tim Rucci said...

Really nice captures, Kelly. I know exactly what you mean when you talk about dealing with branches obstructing your view of the bird. Glad you had a clear view this time. You've captured some really nice detail in these.

Kelly said...

Thanks, Nick!

Thanks, Abe! You're lucky to have a Robin eating your seeds! Mine just go for the worms.

Roy...than you!

Chris...thanks! You're lucky they are common visitors in your neighborhood...they aren't that common here!

dAwN...look forward to seeing your photos. Maybe you'll be able to catch one eating berries! :-)

Janice....listen for that "mew" sound....I usually hear them before I see them! thank you....

Adrienne....you do need to get down there. I wish it were close to me. It's only 2.5 to 3 hours, but I don't have that much extra time. I would need to make that an overnight.

NC....thank you! I hope it does too. I am usually excited when i see a bird I don't see that often. I shouldn't be, but I am!

DAve....I loved your post. I saw it today. Yeah for the catbirds!!

Betsy....you'd know it if you saw one. He's larger and that "mew" gives it away every time!

Vickie...I hope you see one soon! ;-)

Nicole...thank you. He does look like he's smiling. I though the same thing when I saw the shot!

Mona...haha....yes...then he's a slob!

Roy....Funny....but I think you might be on to something! I read music might have started eons ago because of listening to birds.

Laure....I never thought about a bird being messy. That's the first time I've ever seen berry juice dripping down one's face and chest feathers!

Tabib...thank you!

Enita.....thank yoy! I need to remember to put links to the songs--especially when I talk about them! Thank you!!! Hugs..

Crista...thank you very much! :-)

Keith...thank you!

Warren...you can keep the wind! We only had the one day of rain, but it was a big help to the trees. It might rain tomorrow afternoon. I hope you get all the migrants you want!

Jenny...thanks! In those leaves....they are kings of the skulk.

Mary...I do too. I rarely see the red patch (for that matter I rarely see them around here at all!). I didn't either...

Songbird...there are so many nice blogs out there it's hard to keep up. I'm going to be busy over the next couple of days and I know I'm going to fall behind too....

Elaine....Yes! I can let you know where to go. Email me and let me know exactly where you're going and I can give you some suggestions.

tim...thank you!! It is nice when the pop out into the open. :-)

Heather said...

These photos are incredible Kelly. I can just hear them all mew-ing. They must really gorge themselves on the berries to get so messy!