This Land Is My Land

A northern mockingbird flares out its wings and tail to arrest its climb during a territorial display along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

Although I grew up with them in the east we didn’t have mockers in Oregon so I’m getting reacquainted after two decades apart. This past week I watched this mockingbird doing its dance on successive mornings, possibly to establish its territory from this high vantage point on a granite boulder where it would have been visible from further distances (I never saw another mockingbird). It would fly up a short distance and do these aerobatic maneuvers, reminding me more of a flycatcher, as it arrested its climb and returned to the rock. In between hops it sang a wide variety of songs, although a thrasher would sometimes fly in and the mockingbird would lay low for a while.


A northern mockingbird sings on a sunny winter morning along the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona

I had been looking forward to being reunited with mockingbirds when we moved to Arizona and I have not been disappointed. I see them in our backyard but this one was singing along the Marcus Landslide Trail, going through its whole repertoire of songs on a sunny winter morning.


A northern mockingbird balances at the end of a tree branch while eating berries in Conway, South Carolina

I grew up with mockingbirds but I left them behind when I moved to Oregon 21 years ago. We’ve been reacquainted at times over the years when I traveled back east, I met this mocker eating berries while balanced at the end of a tree branch on a trip to South Carolina in 2006. My stepfather had passed away a couple of weeks earlier and my wife and I stayed with my mother through Christmas. I took a number of walks around the neighborhood, watching the local wildlife, seeking out joy to balance the sadness.

Mockingbirds will be a part of my life once more, they are one of a small group of birds that aren’t in my part of Oregon but are in both Arizona and the Southeast where I grew up. Looking forward to the reunion.