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Summer’s icons

There are some birds that are just synonymous with summer. Everyone has their favorites. Maybe it’s a wren returning to a box in the yard or a familiar call heard from the garden on an early morning. Regardless of which one you connect to, the more you become aware of nature around you the more nature becomes part of your everyday life.I have three birds that connect me to the warm lazy days of summer. The first is the Eastern phoebe. One has nested outside my office window for several years now so I know her well. Perhaps the most familiar flycatcher in eastern North America, the Eastern phoebe nests near people on buildings and bridges and often on top of porch lights and above doors. This proximity to people makes it very easy to observe and enjoy. It can be recognized by its emphatic and almost scolding “phee-bee” call and its habit of constantly wagging it tail.The female is a very busy and independent bird. Very rarely does she allow any other phoebes near her — and even the male is kept at a distance. If you are lucky enough to have a phoebe nest near a window, you can see the wide variety of flies, moths and insects that she brings to her nestlings, as a committed parent and caretaker.The second bird is the American robin, the Connecticut state bird. It is so common that it is often overlooked. It is a usual sight on lawns across North America, often seen pulling earthworms out of the ground. It is fun to watch as it sprints several feet across the lawn, as if it were being chased — only to stop abruptly with its head tilted to the ground. Many people think that it is listening for worms when in fact, because its eyes are positioned on the side of its head, it is actually looking for worms. Robins seem to nest almost anywhere and their cheery song becomes part of everyday summer life.As each day winds down, light fades from the sky and most other birds have finished singing, the song of the veery is almost like an extraterrestrial lullaby. With its strange yet soothing downwardly spiraling song, it is a reminder that the birds are still there, even as darkness sets in on the warm summer night. Scott Heth is the director of Audubon Sharon and can be reached at sheth@audubon.org, (subject line: Nature Notes).

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