Early this morning I received a call from Steve Howell telling me that he had yet another, (or the same) Blue-gray Gnatcatcher visiting his yard. Well, he has them each year near his house in late August and early September and has called me perhaps 4 times with one coming over to his place for a visit. So, I just had to do it.
When I pulled up on my bike he laughed because the bird had simply disappeared. It had been there about 8 minutes before. Seems that a Cooper’s Hawk was perched in a Eucalyptus tree and the gnatcatcher didn’t take too kindly to that situation. Nobody likes having the harbinger of death in their space! So, the bird busied itself, harassing the hawk with scolds of disapproval and as William Leon Dawson once wrote said, “promising redoubled misbehavior”. By the the time Steve returned with his camera, neither bird was to be found. That’s right about when I pulled up on my bike, sweating from the rapid assent and the high temperature. We kicked around the “Euc” for a while but to no avail.
I needed to think like a gnatcatcher! I thought to myself, “Where would I go if I were a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher”? I looked around for their typical habitat which is usually scrub with a good representation of Coyote Brush, and the like. Wading through a few hundred yards of tinder dry, belly-high grass, found me in a nice patch of appropriate growth. I produced a loud “SQUEEK” sound by putting my hand to my lips and created something akin to, oh, let’s say, a mouse having its head taken off. WHAM! # 217. A divine little female popped right up in front of me and came in quick, pivoting this way and that with its expressive black and white tail cocked up at a 45 degree angle. With its high, thin and nasal voice, it proceeded to protest my presence. “Bzzzew, Bzzzzzew”, it said, looking at me through beady black eyes that were encircled with thin round white spectacles. What a fine bird I thought to myself!