September 16, 2014
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A little too early to celebrate summer

You know summer has arrived when the mocking bird greets the morning.

I heard his call – or, rather calls – in the gray dawn Sunday.

He was just starting his repertoire, like the bugler playing reveille, only it wasn’t time to get up. First it was chatter, a repetitive chirping that was whimsical but soon became annoying. I wouldn’t have been surprised if one of our neighbors shouted “Shut up!” or, at least hear a crow caw a reprimand. But there was no scolding; just the mocking bird stuck on his tuneless yakking. The morning brightened, an orange glow against the depths of the heavens. Yet, it was still too early for us, unless you wanted to catch the tide and go fishing, or perhaps a jog before the traffic and the heat of the day.

He kept going and going. “It’s morning, it’s morning, it’s morning.”

Carol heard him, too. I could tell from the rustle beside me that she was no longer asleep. We didn’t say anything. We listened. Surely some other member of the avian community would respond.

Finally, the mocking bird changed the tune he had worn thin. Now he was warbling, only in place of the pure notes he was mimicking, this sounded like gargling. He didn’t pause; the gargling went on and on.

“Get up. Get up. Get up.”

Would the robin be the first to respond, the thrush, the catbird or the busy tweets of the sparrows?

Silence prevailed, except, of course, for the self-appointed bugler who intensified his clarion caws to get up and going … don’t let the moment slip by. It’s no wonder mocking birds stake out their turf: They must, because there it’s always a lone call and not a chorus. It makes you wonder if they can stand one another’s company. From a gargle, the call transitioned to a jay’s cry, all harsh and demanding. This was not a melody to ease you into the day, but an incessant rapping, like a hurried deliveryman at the door.

“Am I the only one out here? Am I the only one awake?”

Finally he was rewarded.

Perhaps the sparrows that have taken residence in the eaves took offense to his imitations because they started tweeting. You could tell they were the genuine thing; in contrast, their notes were sweet relief.

The mocking bird was thrilled. He stepped it up a notch, egging on the others to wake up, sing and welcome the day. He cranked up the next selection. I could have sworn it was a catbird, if I didn’t know better. The catbird wasn’t enticed by the mocking but the rest of the community was awakening.

The mocking bird seemed overjoyed. He was switching calls two or three times a minute, doing his best to keep up with the crowd. The day was brightening. Carol and I marveled at the mocking bird’s persistence, if not downright audacity, in cajoling his neighbors into song.

Later, sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee, we watched as the sparrows went about their nesting and a dozen starlings stepped through the fresh cut lawn, lined up like a search party as they pecked at bugs.

A couple of gulls wheeled into view, and an egret, its neck tucked in and its legs outstretched, crossed the scene with slow, rhythmic beats of long wings, making that egret clucking noise.

Then the mocking bird, with its white-banded tail feathers, arrived. He perched on the beach roses and, in full voice, went through his playlist. He bobbed up and down, a true performer taking center stage. For whatever reason, he’d flutter up in the air three or four feet, fall back to his perch, mimic a few more calls, and start the process again.

I admire such boundless energy and sheer zeal. There are people like him, always on the go, always cheery, always the first.

They’re marvelous. They energize us. They’re optimists, and they have to be.

But there are times when you can use a break.

Mocking birds should be banned from early rising … at least on weekends.


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