Julien’s head tilted back, tufts of blond hair bolting out from under his hat, he points and yells, burr.
There’s a pair—the slender, lemon-bellied flycatchers.
Che che jey jey hey
They sing, high pitched, from their separate branch tip perches, up in the elm.
I bend down and high five Julien.
Flycatchers, I say, and he nods with a big old grin.
Diving down, the flycatchers fly back and forth from the elm to the chain link, then back. Could be acadians, or yellow-bellied flycatchers? Either way, they’re beauties. The pair chase each other—Julien lets out a giggle—before they fly off to the north, to our neighbor’s overgrown, mostly-native property, and then off they go.
Banging and clanging its way north, a trash truck makes its way down the street behind us. The truck’s sounds grow more faint, though, and soon it’s quiet.
The sun’s strong already, the breeze warm, but it feels good. We head past the playset and the weedy flowers brilliant white in the strong, early sun.
There, I say.
Duv, Julien says, nearly losing his footing in the excitement of the moment.
The mourning dove is smaller, a little slenderer, more buffy gray with patches of white, moseying and foraging in the grass near the shed. With our soft high fives and long-brimmed hats, one might think we were counting the most rare species for a vital study. But we’re most definitely ornithological novices, and like many others, we’re just killing some time.
I’ve got to admit, I’m a proud papa. Julien sure has taken to his birds, and—not even yet two years old—he’s starting to distinguish his families. Just a week or two ago, everything was burr. Forget ABCs, this is an achievement! I’ll have to remember to tell grandma, herself a novice birder.
We leave the dove to his little patch of turf, and mosey towards the shade of the cabbage palm, against the back fence.
* * *
My phone bings and beeps. I can’t help it; I take it out of my pocket. It’s going crazy. In the headlines, there’s the reporting that reaffirms this is the worst pandemic we’ve seen in a long time, there’s an article with graphs, and then a story of some of the heroes on the front lines. Under regional news, more of the now-familiar phrases “quarantine” or “presumptive positive.” Then there’s some of the sad news.
I should have listened to Rach and left it inside. Just for this morning—“try for a few minutes,” she’d said. But, perhaps for the first time, I feel guilty about being detached from reality, detached from the battles we need to prepare for. I nearly drop the phone when Julien yells.
Just above us.
Singing softly, a sweet, rolling song, the warbler calls. A tellow-throated warbler, one of our spring visitors.
Perched on her cabbage palm from, slate gray above, the yellow of her throat is brighter than that of the flycatchers, a bright yellow amber. And—I’ve never noticed this before—the tiny patch above her eye is the same bright yellow.
She’s hop flying for insects.
We watch her funny flight. Songless now, she hunts for the insects gathered here on the sweet shade side of the cabbage palm. We stay here, quietly, and watch her.
Roger Real Drouin is a writer. His essays have appeared, or are forthcoming, in the journals Border Crossing, Whole Terrain: Journal of Reflective Environmental Practice, Concho River Review, EarthSpeak Magazine, and Sugar Mule. His short stories have appeared in the Potomac Review, Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Grey Sparrow Journal, Pif Magazine, Pindelyboz, and elsewhere. He was named the 2018 John Ringling Towers literary arts grant fellow. He is also the founder of Little Curlew Press.