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Katydids and Cedar Waxwings

Katydids and Cedar Waxwings

When Yvonne and I first moved from Los Angeles to Nashville, it was like arriving in a foreign land—not so much the accents and culture, which we found fascinating, but the physical environment.

Rolling in a few days before the moving van, we spread our sleeping bags on the floor of our new house, where we would spend the night. A short while later, I was awakened by a sound.

It wasn’t a creak or bump or slam. It was more like a buzz saw, or a giant drill, or a jet airplane, and it filled the room.

Worried, and a little frightened, I padded across the room to the back door, pushed it open, and stuck out my head. The sound was louder now. It was coming from the wooded hillside behind our house. With a start, I realized it was no jet airplane, but something else entirely.

Bugs.

Later, some new friends laughed and explained that in the heat of summer, the crickets come out, along with katydids and tree frogs, and they combine to create the racket that had awakened me.

Welcome to Nashville, home of country music and country sounds.

Over the next few years, we started watching birds. I quickly realized they were different from California birds, and I hung a feeder to attract and learn about them. I got out my binoculars, bought some bird books, and settled in to watch.

I saw and identified lots of birds, most of them new to me, plus one stubborn, acrobatic squirrel I’d rather not discuss. Before long, my interest faded.

Recently, with more time at home, I’ve been watching birds again. This time I filled two bird feeders—one with safflower seeds for larger birds, and the other with a special blend for finches and small birds. Once again, I settled in to watch.

It’s been great. The acrobatic squirrel seems to have left, or possibly died of injuries from a fall. (The spring-loaded feeder may have helped.)

I’ve spotted Cardinals, House sparrows, Chickadees, Blue Jays and Bluebirds, Mockingbirds, and Starlings. I’ve seen three kinds of woodpeckers: Downey, Red-Bellied, and Pileated. The special blend has attracted House Finches, Purple Finches, and Goldfinches, whose yellow breasts grow brighter by the day.

The prize, though, came just a few days ago. Mahonia bushes grow by our front window, and in the summer they sprout clusters of fat purple berries. If I sit by the window, I get a wonderful treat: Cedar Waxwings.

These surely are nature’s most elegant birds—a sleek tan-gray body, black-and-white mask, feathery crest, bright red wing tips, and a blazing yellow tail. They arrive in flocks, pushing and shoving to get at the berries. I sit there, admiring them and trying to get a photo.

Summer is fading. Soon, the Cedar Waxwings will be just a lovely memory, a flash of bright colors, beating wings, and berries in beaks.

I gaze past the Mahonia bushes and imagine a night in the weeks to come. I get out of bed, open the door, and step into the yard. The birds are quiet. The trees are silhouetted against the moon. I stand there in the Nashville night, solitary but not alone.

Just me and the buzz saw.

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