The Song Disruptor

A northern mockingbird sings in the reddish light of sunrise atop a rock on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

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.

A curve-billed thrasher perches atop a rock, dried saguaro fruit clinging to its beak, in the reddish light of sunrise on the Marcus Landslide Trail in McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona in June 2019

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.

Reunited

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.

Balance

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.