From June, a mockingbird displays early in the morning from its favorite perch, its dance a mix of jump flights and wing flares and boisterous song.
Back in June I woke up early before work so I went out for a short hike, spending the morning the way I had the previous two mornings, watching a mockingbird dance and sing as the sun rose. The previous day a curve-billed thrasher had flown in and the mocker stayed out of sight for a while, but on this morning I got a picture of it singing right as the first light arrived. But then almost on cue the thrasher flew in, dried saguaro fruit clinging to its beak, and the mocker yielded. I noticed the previous morning that although it would lay low for a while whenever the thrasher flew in, eventually it would always come back to dance and sing, but on this morning work waited so I could not.
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.
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.
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.